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The Soulful Science: What Economists Really Do and Why It Matters Hardcover – 11 Feb 2007

3.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (11 Feb. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691125139
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691125138
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 16 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,165,239 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2007

"The book is well written, copiously referenced and generous in its acknowledgement of the relationships between economics and other social sciences. . . . [T]he general reader . . . will find much to think about."--David Throsby, Times Literary Supplement

"Coyle's style is very accessible, and this book is an excellent survey of the frontiers of economics for the general reader. Students of economics at all levels will benefit, as the work's academic credentials are strong, with more than 300 references to leading books and articles. Overall, The Soulful Science can be recommended highly."--Paul Ormerod, Times Higher Education Supplement

"The best thing about [this book] is a deft mapping of the developments in economic thought. Coyle describes brilliantly the intellectual geography of her subject."--Frances Cairncross, Nature

"Most of The Soulful Science is devoted to a grand whirlwind tour of modern economics, with fascinating vignettes of individual economists. It's a trip worth taking, because what economists do has changed considerably in the past two decades, and the textbooks haven't kept up. Coyle, who is both a journalist and a Harvard-trained economist, is ideally suited to the role of tour guide: She understands economists as only a fellow economist can, and she can write, as most economists cannot."--David Colander, American Scientist

"This is an astonishing book: beautifully written. . . . [I]t is also beautifully edited; it is the first book I have read in a long time that is equally at home on either side of the Atlantic--which is not an easy trick to pull off."--Andrew Hilton, Financial World

"Fluently written with the balance of a good novel, the result is a tour de force."--Donald Anderson, Business Economist

"Coyle shows how contemporary economists are bringing theory out of the classroom as they adopt a more pragmatic, humanistic approach to such problems as poverty and pollution."--Edward Nawotka, Bloomberg News

"The simple aim of The Soulful Science is to describe what economists do, how the field has changed in the past 10 years or so, and why you should care. It succeeds admirably."--Financial Times

"Coyle cares about these issues not only as an economist (once the economics editor at this newspaper), nor because she sits on the Competition Commission, applying theory to curb monopolistic tendencies, but also because she feels economists, and their work, are often misunderstood."--Salil Tripathi, The Independent

"Author of Sex, Drugs, and Economics and other popular volumes, economist Coyle offers compelling arguments for why economics--and economists--matter. She skillfully and objectively treats the theories, current controversies, and frontiers of the discipline...For thoughtful, insightful, interesting narrative, Coyle is hard to top."-- A.R. Sanderson, Choice

"Policy-oriented economic developers and researchers have much to gain from Coyle's summaries of a wide variety of contemporary economic research, which she presents with exceptional grace and more humor than is usually expected from a practitioner of the 'dismal science.'"--James Held, Applied Research in Economic Development

"Regardless of how one views current developments in the mainstream, this is a most worthwhile read. Diane Coyle makes her case in a clear, accessible fashion, and lays out the particulars in a well-organized format. Readers, both supportive and critical of these developments, will find themselves better armed to make their respective case."--John F. Henry, Journal of Economic Issues

"The audience for this book includes anyone . . . who is interested in the implications of economics on policy making. The book is useful as an update to what is happening in modern economics. Teachers in the field can borrow ideas to tune their courses to the state-of-the-art research conducted in the discipline. Researchers in humanities and social sciences would find the book intriguing as more and more overlap between economics and sociology, psychology, and anthropology is witnessed. People with general interest in economics will find The Soulful Science a pleasant read as well."--George M. Zinkhan and Plamen P. Peev, PsycCRITIQUES

From the Back Cover

"At long last, economists have received credit where credit is due. Diane Coyle's authoritative, punchy, lucid, and provocative case for the vitality of today's economics and economists is like a breath of fresh air. This science is a long way from dismal and has been broadening its scope and deepening its insights for a long time. Too few people outside the discipline have noticed what has been going on. A great read, Diane Coyle's The Soulful Science will remedy that shortcoming."--Peter L. Bernstein, author of Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk

"This book will show everybody what modern economics has to offer, and might even make economists rethink the relationship between their research and the big questions in economics. The Soulful Science is very well written, impressive in its grasp of a wide range of topics, and engaging in its enthusiasm."--Paul Seabright, author of The Company of Strangers: A Natural History of Economic Life

"Easy and pleasant reading, this informed and informative book shows convincingly that economics is not the dismal science it is reputed to be. It should be required reading for all who have no training in the field but are nevertheless convinced that they are qualified to speak out on important economic issues. Students who are puzzled by their economics courses will also find the book invaluable."--William J. Baumol, author of The Free-Market Innovation Machine

"Economics has indeed been changing in exciting ways and Diane Coyle's new book will be essential reading for anyone who wants to know what has been going on and what has been achieved so far."--Paul Ormerod, author of The Death of Economics and Why Most Things Fail

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Think back to those economics classes you took in college. You can probably still define a few concepts like price elasticity, opportunity cost and diminishing returns, but the rest may be somewhat hazy. Like most busy people, you probably haven't stayed abreast of the latest research on the causes of economic growth or poverty, the metrics for economic policy, the economics of information and the use of evolutionary modelling. Don't worry. In this pleasant fly-over, economist Diane Coyle shows you the newly discovered economic territory you might have missed. Her presentation is all right, though she's defensive about her chosen profession and sometimes dodges around a bit before coming to the point. Still, we believe you'll find her book sensible, accurate, apolitical, fairly well-organized and far more "utility maximizing" than econ class.
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Format: Kindle Edition
In this well thought out and executed literature review Coyle provides an insightful and entertaining narrative of the evolution of economic thinking tracing a path from classical figures such as David Hume, David Ricardo, Adam Smith and Karl Marx through to what she sets up as a great schism in economic thinking in the first half of the twentieth century. Much of the book is a search for reconciliation between the 'neo-classical orthodoxy' of figures such as Paul Samuelson and the Solow-Swan model of macroeconomic growth - with their emphasis on mathematical formalization based on the rational behaviour and efficient markets; and the 'heterodox' outsiders such as Schumpeter, Hayek and the behavioral and institutional theorists with their focus on economic 'reality' rather than 'abstract models'. At the heart of her argument is that the world of economics is populated by much more than the reductionist, autistic caricatures of profit-maximizing, utility-seeking straw men which its critics commonly portray it to consist of - and a plea for these two fighting factions to tolerate and learn from each other rather splinter off into separate departments. Her narrative is given a personal touch by anecdotes of some of these seminal characters wandering around the halls of economics departments in leather riding boots (I suppose that is better than tasseled slippers) and the insights gleaned from the study of the grave-side eulogies of their friends and colleagues. My only quibble with the book was regarding Coyle's treatment of advances in game theory and its relationship with evolutionary economics concepts that have been incorporated into economics from the biological sciences. The economist's notion of equilibrium, even a Nash equilibrium, has no biological analogy.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
This book reviews recent developments in economics at a homogeneously superficial level. The author has no pet theory she would be passionate about, and maintains a very good balance between many trends of research, which may explain why most of the book is a never-ending sequence of loosely connected abstracts.

Some major themes come back repeatedly, like the neoclassical theories of economics, which many economists seek to complement or to overturn, and the influences of psychology and biology on economics. But they are never given independent, coherent introductions. Instead, these themes are sprinkled over many chapters. The book also presents a fair number of interesting applications of modern economic theory, but none of these examples enjoys a detailed enough treatment. Therefore, I still do not know what economists really do, and I am still not convinced that it is interesting. (That it matters is hardly in doubt.)

The book might be a good introduction to the recent literature on the subject, although I know too little to judge. But I would not recommend it to those who, like me, have no professional interest in economics.
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