Real World Economics: A Post-Autistic Economics Reader.

AuthorToruno, Mayo C.
PositionBook review

Real World Economics: A Post-Autistic Economics Reader, edited by Edward Fullbrook. London, New York, Delhi: Anthem Press, 2007. Hardcover: ISBN 1 84331 247 6, $80.00. Paperback: ISBN 1 84331 236 0, $29.95. 496 pages.

In June of 2000, a group of French economics students organized a petition seeking to make the teaching of economics relevant. They wanted to escape the imaginary world of neoclassicism and study, instead, the actual economic behavior of institutions and human beings; they opposed a mathematics that's unconcerned with economic reality; they wanted a plurality of economic methods and theories; and they warned their teachers to heed these concerns lest they be troubled by the possibility of massive declines in economic enrollments. They cleverly labeled neoclassicism "autistic" to underscore the symptoms it shares with psychological autism: an incapacity to understand reality from any perspective other than that of a self-interested a-social individual; a narrow obsessive interest in routines that are unrelated to the social context, i.e. mathematical formalism; and an inability to interact with others or imagine what they're feeling, not unlike neoclassicals' ignorance of heterodox economics and dismissive attitude toward the other social sciences. They were demanding a post-autistic economics; one that would transcend the autism of neoclassicism by developing an economics that incorporates the social nature of human behavior, seriously considers explanations that differ from neoclassicism, and chooses methodologies by the extent to which they explain reality rather than by their mathematical elegance.

This petition set into motion an intellectual movement that quickly spread throughout the global economic-academic community. The Internet allowed for a quick dissemination of their ideas, leading to the development of similar petitions by French professors (June 2000), Cambridge University students (June 2001), the economics department at The University of Missouri--Kansas City (August 2001), and Harvard University students (2003). Indeed, the first issue of the Post-Autistic Economics (PAE) Newsletter was posted on the Internet in September of 2000. Since then, economists from throughout the global academic community have contributed to this newsletter, and a movement can be said to have been born. One measure of this is that the PAE website,, now receives 19,000 visitors per month and the PAE Newsletter...

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