Teaching Economics After the Crash

At universities from Glasgow to Kolkata, economics students are fighting their tutors over how to teach the subject in the wake of the crash. The Guardian's senior economics commentator, Aditya Chakrabortty, reports from the frontline of this most unusual and important academic war.

The banking crash plunged economies around the world into crisis - but it also created questions for economics itself. Even the Queen asked why hardly any economists saw the meltdown coming. Yet economics graduates still roll out of exam halls and off to government departments or the City with much the same toolkit that, just five years ago, produced a massive crash.

Now economics students around the world are demanding a radical change of course. In a manifesto signed by 65 university economics associations from over 30 different countries, students decry a 'dramatic narrowing of the curriculum' that they say prefers algebra to the real world and teaches them there's only one way to run an economy.

As fights go, this one is desperately ill-matched - in one corner, young people fighting to change what they're taught; in the other, the academics who've built careers researching and teaching the subject. Yet the outcome matters to all of us, as it is a battle over the ideas that underpin how we run our economies.

Aditya meets the students leading arguing for a rethink of economics. He also talks to major figures from the worlds of economics and finance, including George Soros, the Bank of England's chief economist Andy Haldane, and Cambridge author Ha-Joon Chang.

Produced by Eve Streeter
A Greenpoint production for BBC Radio 4.

Release date:

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38 minutes

Last on

Sun 4 Jan 2015 17:00

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Want to know more?

We asked the programme's contributors to recommend the economics books (or blogs) they have found especially influential. 

Here is their suggested reading list:

Dr Ha-Joon Chang
• Herbert Simon: Reasons in Human Affairs (Stanford University Press 1983)

• Phyllis Deane: The State and the Economic System: An Introduction to the History of Political Economy (Opus 1989)

Rob Johnson
• Frank Knight: Risk Uncertainty and Profit (1921)
; On the History and Methods of Economics (1956)

• John Maynard Keynes: General Theory (1936); A Treatise on Probability (1921)

• Rajani Kanth: Breaking with the Enlightenment (NJ Humanities Press 1997)

• Stuart Ewen: PR!:  The Social History of Spin (Basic Books 1998)

Professor Steve Keen
• Hyman Minsky: Can "It" Happen Again? (Routledge 1982)

• John Blatt: Dynamic Economic Systems (Routledge 1983)

• Karl Marx: Grundrisse (1939)


Professor Diane Coyle
• John McMillan: Reinventing the Bazaar - A Natural History of Markets (Norton 2003)

• Thomas Schelling: Micromotives and Macrobehaviour (Norton 1978)

Dr Victoria Bateman
• John Maynard Keynes: The General Theory of Employment, Interest and
 Money (chapter 12)

• Avner Offer: The Challenge of Affluence (OUP 2006)

• Mariana Mazzucato: The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs
 Private Sector Myths (Anthem Press  2013)

Professor Wendy Carlin
• David Soskice and Peter Hall (ed): Varieties of Capitalism (OUP 2001)

• Paul Seabright: The Company of Strangers: a Natural History of Economic Life (PUP 2004)

Professor Philip Mirowski
nakedcapitalism.com or larspsyll.wordpress.com

Lord Robert Skidelsky
• Josh Ryan-Collins, Tony Greenham, Richard Werner and Andrew Jackson: Where Does Money Come From? A Guide to the UK Monetary and Banking System (New Economics Foundation 2014)

• Anat Admati and Martin Hellwig: The Bankers' New Clothes: What's Wrong
 with Banking and What to Do About It (Princeton University Press 2013)

• Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee: The Second Machine Age: Work Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies (WW Norton 2014)

Dr Devrim Yilmaz
• Karl Polanyi: The Great Transformation (1944)

Professor Danny Quah
•  Edward Tufte: The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (Graphics Press 2001)

• Paul Kennedy: The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000 (Random House 1989)

• Jared Diamond: Guns, Germs, and Steel: A Short History of Everybody for the Last 13,000 Years (Vintage 1998)

Yuan Yang, Rethinking Economics
• Tony Lawson: Economics and Reality (Routledge 1997)

Joe Earle, Post-Crash Economics Society
• George Packer: The Unwinding (Faber 2014)

• Rod Hill and Tony Myatt: The Economics Anti-Textbook: A Critical Thinker's Guide to Economics (Zed 2010)