Heterodox Box:
What's Heterodox Economics?

Excerpted from Chapter 1, "A First Look at Economics"

"Heterodox economics" has been heard increasingly in the media, from Le Monde and The Guardian to Adbusters and The Chronicle of Higher Education. In the Sixties any econ major with a heart was out in the streets walking with workers and civil rights activists. These were yesterday's heterodox. But what is heterodox economics and where are its soldiers today? Hetero-anything is linguistically speaking of Greek origin. When used as a prefix, "hetero" means "different" or "other," as in heterosexual. Dox, also from the Greek, means "opinion" or "belief". So a heterodox economist is a person with different or alternative beliefs about economics and the economy. Different from what? Different from the orthodoxy, the so-called "mainstream, neoclassical economists" who populate most American and British and Dutch departments of economics. Within heterodox and mainstream economics one finds the variation we mentioned, including significant overlaps. At heterodox conferences you will find libertarian, feminist, Marxist, Catholic, institutionalist, post-autistic, Post Keynesian, and other schools or divisions of economists. And within each of these divisions you will find further sub-divisions. For example, the postmodern Marxist theorists do not much speak with the empirically-oriented, model-testing Marxists.

Heterodox economists are unified by their opposition to the idea that neoclassical economics — the allegedly value-free, individually-based profit-maximization stuff that is central to Chapters 2 through 16 — is the one and only way of thinking about the economy. We agree with heterodox economists that an open discussion about heterodox versus mainstream economics is an important part of the economic conversation. Many neoclassical journals, textbooks, and departments of economics claim that no major disagreements exist. But if you learn anything in this course it should be the old saying, "Don't believe everything you read."

Heterodox economics can be explored on the web at: