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A systematic comparison of the three major economic theories, showing how they differ and why these differences matter in shaping economic theory and practice. Contending Economic Theories offers a unique comparative treatment of the three main theories in economics as it is taught today: neoclassical, Keynesian, and Marxian. Each is developed and discussed in its own chapt A systematic comparison of the three major economic theories, showing how they differ and why these differences matter in shaping economic theory and practice. Contending Economic Theories offers a unique comparative treatment of the three main theories in economics as it is taught today: neoclassical, Keynesian, and Marxian. Each is developed and discussed in its own chapter, yet also differentiated from and compared to the other two theories. The authors identify each theory's starting point, its goals and foci, and its internal logic. They connect their comparative theory analysis to the larger policy issues that divide the rival camps of theorists around such central issues as the role government should play in the economy and the class structure of production, stressing the different analytical, policy, and social decisions that flow from each theory's conceptualization of economics. The authors, building on their earlier book Economics: Marxian versus Neoclassical, offer an expanded treatment of Keynesian economics and a comprehensive introduction to Marxian economics, including its class analysis of society. Beyond providing a systematic explanation of the logic and structure of standard neoclassical theory, they analyze recent extensions and developments of that theory around such topics as market imperfections, information economics, new theories of equilibrium, and behavioral economics, considering whether these advances represent new paradigms or merely adjustments to the standard theory. They also explain why economic reasoning has varied among these three approaches throughout the twentieth century, and why this variation continues today--as neoclassical views give way to new Keynesian approaches in the wake of the economic collapse of 2008.


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A systematic comparison of the three major economic theories, showing how they differ and why these differences matter in shaping economic theory and practice. Contending Economic Theories offers a unique comparative treatment of the three main theories in economics as it is taught today: neoclassical, Keynesian, and Marxian. Each is developed and discussed in its own chapt A systematic comparison of the three major economic theories, showing how they differ and why these differences matter in shaping economic theory and practice. Contending Economic Theories offers a unique comparative treatment of the three main theories in economics as it is taught today: neoclassical, Keynesian, and Marxian. Each is developed and discussed in its own chapter, yet also differentiated from and compared to the other two theories. The authors identify each theory's starting point, its goals and foci, and its internal logic. They connect their comparative theory analysis to the larger policy issues that divide the rival camps of theorists around such central issues as the role government should play in the economy and the class structure of production, stressing the different analytical, policy, and social decisions that flow from each theory's conceptualization of economics. The authors, building on their earlier book Economics: Marxian versus Neoclassical, offer an expanded treatment of Keynesian economics and a comprehensive introduction to Marxian economics, including its class analysis of society. Beyond providing a systematic explanation of the logic and structure of standard neoclassical theory, they analyze recent extensions and developments of that theory around such topics as market imperfections, information economics, new theories of equilibrium, and behavioral economics, considering whether these advances represent new paradigms or merely adjustments to the standard theory. They also explain why economic reasoning has varied among these three approaches throughout the twentieth century, and why this variation continues today--as neoclassical views give way to new Keynesian approaches in the wake of the economic collapse of 2008.

30 review for Contending Economic Theories: Neoclassical, Keynesian, and Marxian

  1. 4 out of 5

    Randal Samstag

    This is a bit of a strange book. It is an update of a book whose purpose the authors say was, first, to explain Marxism and especially current work in Marxian economics to modern students and, second, to compare this to the dominant approach of the neoclassical schools. In the current update, they include Keynesian economics as a third paradigm. There is a marked difference in style and tone between the discussions of neoclassical, Keynesian and Marxian bits. Presumably Wolff wrote the Marxian b This is a bit of a strange book. It is an update of a book whose purpose the authors say was, first, to explain Marxism and especially current work in Marxian economics to modern students and, second, to compare this to the dominant approach of the neoclassical schools. In the current update, they include Keynesian economics as a third paradigm. There is a marked difference in style and tone between the discussions of neoclassical, Keynesian and Marxian bits. Presumably Wolff wrote the Marxian bits and his co-author Resnick wrote the neoclassical bits. Ironically, for a book that is co-written by a prominent Marxist, the neoclassical chapter actually gives quite a good introduction to the details of constructing supply / demand curves and other bits of neoclassical economics. But to really get an idea of what is behind these theories I would recommend going to the sources: Leon Walras, Alfred Marshall, and Kenneth Arrow, for example. I have written about Walras and Marshall here, about Walras’s critique of Proudhon here and about a classic book by Arrow here. Again, for a book aimed primarily at presenting Marxism to a wider audience, there is surprisingly little critique of the neoclassical school. For a more scathing one the reader should look at Varoufakis’s Economic Indeterminacy or his economics overview, Modern Political Economics. The authors’ characterization of the neoclassical school as part of a broader tradition of “humanism” seems quite strange. What they mean, I guess, is that the neoclassicals and, especially what Joan Robinson calls the neo-neoclassicals (Samuelson et cet.), concentrate on economics from the subjective, consumer side of the economic exchange and from the point of view of the individual consumer. But I wouldn’t think of this as particularly having anything to do with “an outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters” or with “a Renaissance cultural movement that turned away from medieval scholasticism and revived interest in ancient Greek and Roman thought.” Evidently “(among some contemporary writers) a system of thought criticized as being centered on the notion of the rational, autonomous self and ignoring the unintegrated and conditioned nature of the individual” is more of what they have in mind - (reference). They call Keynesian economics a part of “structuralism.” Again, this seems strange, since what they mean has no connection to French philosophy post-Levi-Strauss, but presumably that Keynes looked at economics from a national or international perspective. They don’t bother to try to coin a one-word phrase for Marxism. They just say that Marxism “broke away from both humanism and structuralism to establish a basically different way of understanding society.” The terms that they use have been so often used in other contexts; it is strange that they decided to try to use them in this way here. Perhaps I just missed the memo. They see neoclassical economics as a member of the class of “reductionist” and “determinist” theories which “explain the events they deem to be important (worthy of their attention) by centering on the essential causes of those events.” They see Keynesian theories as “structural determinism” since “Keynesian theory makes the macroeconomic structure the entry point and essential cause and human economic behaviors the effects.” They present a split Marxian tradition between the determinist Marxists and their own “overdeterminist” position. The determinists are those who argued for a “posed entry point of mode of production – the structured interaction of relations of production (property) and forces of production (technology) – that determinist Marxists argued was the ultimate cause of the economy nad thereby politics and culture as well.” Economy as substructure, culture as superstructure, in other words. Their own view is described as “overdetermination” – “Everything in the world participates in overdetermining everything else and is itself overdetermined by everything else.” Well, at least the reader is spared the Hegelian flip flops that one gets from Zizek, for example. But in the end they seem to be pointing to the same thing. No more on the specifics of each chapter. My remarks here come primarily from their introductory chapter. Suffice it to say that I think one gets a better theoretical overview from such traditional histories as Mark Blaug’s Economic Theory in Retrospect or even better, Varoufakis’s Modern Political Economics. But this book gives one a look at the sustained views of a currently very prominent Marxist, Richard Wolff. That has to be a good thing.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    I'm the president of a local union and have been teaching myself the basics of economics through self-directed studies for the purpose of being able to up my rhetoric in regards to supply sided b.s. I read Wolff's Occupy the Economy and Democracy at Work. I LOVED them so much I went ahead and purchased Contending Economic Theories. This book is the same high quality as the others, and I would have given it a four or five stars except that for an economics layman, such as myself, this one got a l I'm the president of a local union and have been teaching myself the basics of economics through self-directed studies for the purpose of being able to up my rhetoric in regards to supply sided b.s. I read Wolff's Occupy the Economy and Democracy at Work. I LOVED them so much I went ahead and purchased Contending Economic Theories. This book is the same high quality as the others, and I would have given it a four or five stars except that for an economics layman, such as myself, this one got a little above my head (and outside my scope of interest/application). This book is obviously a much more in depth comparison of major economic theories, and it would be a perfect textbook in an undergraduate economics course (I sensed that this was its intent). For those of us who AREN'T economics majors and don't have a lot of time, I'd recommend Occupy the Economy. The three stars I gave it are really more of a reflection of my lack of time or interest at this level than it is a rating of Wolff or the book. If I were an economist, I'm pretty sure I'd give it 6 stars. ;)

  3. 5 out of 5

    C

    This is a really good introductory primer on the three competing economic theories: neoclassical, Keynesian, and Marxian. Although Wolff and Resnick are Marxists - of the Althusserian variety - they do an impeccable job of being completely neutral and unbiased in their assessment of the aforementioned theories. However, they do spend the majority of the book explaining the Marxian view. And, they make sure the Marxian view can be sustained in the 21st century, by adapting issues of corporate str This is a really good introductory primer on the three competing economic theories: neoclassical, Keynesian, and Marxian. Although Wolff and Resnick are Marxists - of the Althusserian variety - they do an impeccable job of being completely neutral and unbiased in their assessment of the aforementioned theories. However, they do spend the majority of the book explaining the Marxian view. And, they make sure the Marxian view can be sustained in the 21st century, by adapting issues of corporate structure, state taxes, monopoly firms, etc., into the paradigm of Marxian analysis (issues Marx either was reticent on, or wrote little about). Thus, this is a good book for the Marxist who wants to bring their understanding of Das Kapital into the 21st century. Also, W&R's explication of overdetermination is fantastic. They are able to present the theory in crystal clear terminology, something Althusser failed to do. I do have a few minor quibbles with the book, but nothing serious. First, the authors do assume the reader has taken several economic courses, thus this isn't an introduction for all layman. The graphs used in the Neoclassical and Keynesian sections are sometimes confusing, and not enough time is spent introducing the reader as to how to read these graphs. Also, W&R hop right over serious issues regarding the Marxian theory of abstract and concrete labor, and they gloss over socially necessary labor time a bit too quickly. These are concepts that could have used further explanation. Having read lots of Marx I was comfortable skimming past them, but I can safely say had this been my first time reading about them, I would have been left in the dark. Nonetheless, W&R set lay out a crystal clear thesis - we will teach the entry points, logic, and basic analytical tools of all three theories – and they execute it to near perfection. I don’t know much about Resnick, but I do Wolff’s website, and youtube videos make a nice addition to this text. He speaks and teaches without air of superiority, and he’s always lucid and clear. Thus, reading the book, and watching/listening to him lecture, serves as a great crash course into economics.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Griffin Wilson

    Overall a good general introduction to these three economic theories. If one is completely unfamiliar with the basic economic and social concepts the theories presuppose they may find the reading somewhat difficult, although not inaccessible. Dr. Wolff is himself a Marxist, but I was glad to see him treat the Neoclassical and Keynesian views fairly and exhaustively (for a somewhat introductory text).

  5. 4 out of 5

    Hicasliyok

    On numara ders kitabı. İktisadi bir geçmişi olmayan insanların zevk alacağını sanmıyorum. Aslında iktisadi geçmişi olanların da zevk alacağını sanmıyorum. :) Ama öğrenmek istiyorsanız, öğretir. Temel iktisadi yaklaşımların hemen hepsinin bir arada olması, karşılaştırılması falan güzel.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Chris Baitz

    An easy to read introduction to three of the most influential economic theories.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Rosie K.

    A hundred stars for this book! I read it at the behest of my mom, who's always asking that I read more than just fiction, and despite having spent the last several weeks of summer break freedom making progress on this book, it was fully worth it. Richard Wolff speaks and writes with elegance and clarity, and treats the contending theories very fairly. The neoclassical and Keynesian chapters were a breeze, as I'd already learned the content via high school and college classes, but I encountered so A hundred stars for this book! I read it at the behest of my mom, who's always asking that I read more than just fiction, and despite having spent the last several weeks of summer break freedom making progress on this book, it was fully worth it. Richard Wolff speaks and writes with elegance and clarity, and treats the contending theories very fairly. The neoclassical and Keynesian chapters were a breeze, as I'd already learned the content via high school and college classes, but I encountered so much new information in the chapter on Marxian economic theory. Truly eye-opening. I also really appreciated how diverse the approaches to theory itself were. The meaning of theory (entry points, logical structure) is laid out so we know what exactly we're talking about and how. The reader gets an introduction to different epistemologies (empirical, rational, non-absolutist) in the closing, which is brilliant and hopefully does a lot to help discussion between economists, theorists, and people in general. There's precisely one thing I have to criticize about this book, and it's the usage of "he or she" and "his or her" rather than they/them/their. I know it's a norm in academic writing, so I'm not faulting the authors for it. You can tell that I think this is a great book because that's the only thing I can think of, at the moment, in the entire 378 pages that I disapproved of. TL;DR: Everyone should read this book, and especially if you care about economics!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sett Wai

    I wanted a guided introduction into the field of economics to better understand the various schools of thought in the "dismal science". Having skimmed through Piketty's "Economics of Inequality" with only rudimentary understanding accumulated from various internet resources, I thought it would be best to obtain a better conceptual grasp before tackling the tome that is "Capital in the 21st Century" that's been sitting on my shelf for years. Richard D. Wolff is known to be an outsider in the field I wanted a guided introduction into the field of economics to better understand the various schools of thought in the "dismal science". Having skimmed through Piketty's "Economics of Inequality" with only rudimentary understanding accumulated from various internet resources, I thought it would be best to obtain a better conceptual grasp before tackling the tome that is "Capital in the 21st Century" that's been sitting on my shelf for years. Richard D. Wolff is known to be an outsider in the field, being a Marxian economist, which puts him a good position to explain the various contending theories. I was wary that it might contain rather ideology-heavy writing but thankfully Wolff keeps it strictly in the realm of the explanatory "how" things work. The book was adequate in what it sought to do (explaining the three contending theories) and I can see it being used as a first-year supplementary textbook. It's worth a read, if only just to understand the implicit theoretical frameworks that people may unwittingly commit to when forming opinions about economic matters: mininum wage, role of taxes and welfare etc...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mitch Anderson

    In an incredibly informative compilation, Professor Richard Wolff and Professor Resnick provide an updated comparative study of "The Big Three" economic models – Neoclassical, Keynsian and Marxian. The book is summarized as an introductory economics text and certainly meets such expectations. From the seemingly unquestionable mathematics of Neoclassicism to the social and political analyses of Marxism and all the mediating principles of Keynsian theory in between – indeed, nearly every fundamenta In an incredibly informative compilation, Professor Richard Wolff and Professor Resnick provide an updated comparative study of "The Big Three" economic models – Neoclassical, Keynsian and Marxian. The book is summarized as an introductory economics text and certainly meets such expectations. From the seemingly unquestionable mathematics of Neoclassicism to the social and political analyses of Marxism and all the mediating principles of Keynsian theory in between – indeed, nearly every fundamental facet of these complex theories is covered in immense and, at times, dense detail. However, there are moments where the authors can come off as too understanding, where certain passages turn into tangents reminding the reader of the author's strong intent at nonpartisanship. While these are frequent throughout the text, they merely add a fluff to what is otherwise a well formulated and (as much as it can be) unbiased presentation and comparison of today's dominant economic theories. I would highly recommend this title to anyone seeking a non-trivial introduction to economics in its truest sense.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ricardo Hernández

    One of the few books that cover the three major economic theories in a single volume. An excellent text that provides the entry points to each theory as well as their logic and object of analysis (human decisions for neoclassical, market stabilization for Keynesian and class for Marxian). Perhaps, the most valuable aspect of the book is its detailed treatment of the Marxian theory given the disdain that modern academics give to this complex theory. Besides the broad comparison of the three major One of the few books that cover the three major economic theories in a single volume. An excellent text that provides the entry points to each theory as well as their logic and object of analysis (human decisions for neoclassical, market stabilization for Keynesian and class for Marxian). Perhaps, the most valuable aspect of the book is its detailed treatment of the Marxian theory given the disdain that modern academics give to this complex theory. Besides the broad comparison of the three major corpus, the book also offers a chapter to explain late neoclassical theorie(s), including game theory, evolutional theory, social effects of capitalism and behavioral economics. A book that shines on the shelves of economic literature given its interesting and unique approach.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Claudia

    Disappointing. There are more than three theories in the field of economics. This is an entry level theory of economics book and should be so understood for it is simply put too undergrad. I would have liked an engagement with the fourth revolution by which a surplus of workers will mean they are no longer exploited. But rather ignored. What does that contemporary transnational context mean to economics and people? This question went largely unanswered as if the authors were at odds with their l Disappointing. There are more than three theories in the field of economics. This is an entry level theory of economics book and should be so understood for it is simply put too undergrad. I would have liked an engagement with the fourth revolution by which a surplus of workers will mean they are no longer exploited. But rather ignored. What does that contemporary transnational context mean to economics and people? This question went largely unanswered as if the authors were at odds with their lived reality. For a 2012 book, this is not acceptable. In fact, this book is indispensable for the 1970s and a surplus for 2019. And stop calling Marxist theory Marxian already! It wasn't brought here from Mars and it is distracting.... not in a good way. 2 stars.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Soumajyoti Sarkar

    It was more of a textbook version of economic theories but without any math. It was a good read and one of the upsides of this book is that it seemed to clarify the misconceptions that arise when people analyze political economies.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Peters

    An excellent introduction to major economic theories for people like me who hate traditional textbooks. It's also refreshing to read about economics from someone who hasn't bought into all of the assumptions of micro/macro economics and can consider them critically.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jesse

    Great intro book for anyone newly interested in Economics and the three primary contending economic theories.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    A surprisingly dense book on three of the major schools of economic thought. Took me a very long time to work through it, as it is most definitely academic in tone and therefore not at all a light read. That being said, worth the time investment 100%. I've come out the other side with a nuanced understanding of neoclassical theory, Keynes' critique of Smith and Ricardo's work, and some special topics on "late neoclassical theory," which include some sections on topics like game theory. I would s A surprisingly dense book on three of the major schools of economic thought. Took me a very long time to work through it, as it is most definitely academic in tone and therefore not at all a light read. That being said, worth the time investment 100%. I've come out the other side with a nuanced understanding of neoclassical theory, Keynes' critique of Smith and Ricardo's work, and some special topics on "late neoclassical theory," which include some sections on topics like game theory. I would say that it's worth the read for those topics alone, as well as its value as a book on comparative economics (an area I feel is greatly lacking quality contributions).

  16. 4 out of 5

    John Duff

    ‘Contending Economic Theories’ is a hyper-examination of the world’s three major economic theories and their implications for economic success. While focusing on the fundamentals, Resnick and Wolff do a wonderful job at breaking down entry points and assumptions entailed in each theory, meticulously juxtaposing them in the process. This textbook is a little technical but extremely informative for its size. I suggest familiarization with elementary economics prior to reading this, or maybe read t ‘Contending Economic Theories’ is a hyper-examination of the world’s three major economic theories and their implications for economic success. While focusing on the fundamentals, Resnick and Wolff do a wonderful job at breaking down entry points and assumptions entailed in each theory, meticulously juxtaposing them in the process. This textbook is a little technical but extremely informative for its size. I suggest familiarization with elementary economics prior to reading this, or maybe read this book as an intro to economics companion.

  17. 5 out of 5

    J.A. Strub

    Interesting comparative text by Wolff. Definitely most worthwhile for the bit on new Marxian economics. His description of classical economics is standard and unsympathetic, and Keynesian economics gets super short-shrifted, but we know who Wolff is. Important to get these perspectives out there. A good personal resource though I'd be hesitant to assign it as a central text in a class.

  18. 5 out of 5

    William Pate II

    Great introduction to neoclassical, Keynesian and Marxian economic theories.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Repetitive and overlong, but not a bad summary.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mark Verity

  21. 4 out of 5

    Drazen Milic

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mehmet Gökhan Özdemir

  23. 4 out of 5

    Guilherme Vieira Dumit

  24. 5 out of 5

    Brett Glover

  25. 5 out of 5

    Alec

  26. 5 out of 5

    Luis Martínez

  27. 4 out of 5

    Eugene Duff

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bryn Louise

  29. 5 out of 5

    Middlethought

  30. 5 out of 5

    Phil

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