The Crisis in Economics: the Post-Autistic Economics Movement: the First 600 Days.

Author:Lee, Frederic S.
Position:Book Review

The Crisis in Economics: The Post-Autistic Economics Movement: The First 600 Days, edited by Edward Fullbrook. London: Routledge. 2003. Cloth, ISBN 0415308976, $110.00. Paper, ISBN 0415308984, $31.95. 226 pages.

The post-autistic economics movement, or the PAE movement, is one of the most exciting things to have emerged in the past five years with regard to heterodoxy in economics. It challenged the status quo in economics with the same youthful disgust, vigor, and optimism that was characteristic of the movement of the 1960s and its most significant offspring (at least for heterodox economists), the Union for Radical Political Economics. However, this is not to say that the PAE movement started out with heterodoxy in mind. Rather the French students' petition that initiated the PAE in June 2000 was primarily concerned with narrow, mathematical, nonpluralistic economic lectures they were forced to sit through. Picked up by the French press, starting with Le Monde on June 21, the students' complaints quickly became a national tempest with the media and some French professors supporting them. Consequently, Jack Lang, the French Minister of Education, set up a commission to investigate the complaints.

Not content with remaining quiet, there was a neoclassical backlash on October 31 spearheaded by MIT professors Robert Solow and Olivier Blanchard. But their comments came across as condescending and imperialistic as well as just plain unconvincing; thus the French students and professors of the movement as well as observers became more convinced of the legitimacy of the complaints. Hence beginning in November and extending into April 2001, the leaders of the PAE went to various French universities to build support. Not to be outdone, neoclassical economists lobbied the commission investigating the complaints, but unsuccessfully. For when the report was published in September 2001, it called for "the integration of debate on contemporary economic issues into both the structure and content of university courses" (p. 5) and for multidisciplinarity to be placed at the heart of the teaching of economics. Whether these reforms will be acted upon by economic departments at French universities is unknown. But the report did coincide with a decline of intensity of the PAE movement among French students. Perhaps it is unfair to say, but it does seem to he the case, the PAE movement would have faded away (at least in the awareness of heterodox economists...

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