Chapter 9: What about the mainstream critique of American principles of economics textbooks?
The financial crisis and the subsequent recession have been a real challenge to economists as well as to economic theory. In the media a blame game has been going on and economists and their theories have been portrayed as one of the main culprits. A repeated message has been that, had economic theories been of more relevance, we might have avoided the crisis, or at least not been taken so much by surprise.1 The economics textbook – as one important representative of economic theory – has also come under closer scrutiny and criticism due to the financial crisis (cf. Blinder 2010). Criticisms of economics textbooks do, however, go way back – certainly among non-mainstream economists, but perhaps more surprisingly, also among mainstream economists. I document in this chapter that a debate on modern textbooks has been going on for decades, culminating in the period 1987–1993, among mainstream economists who either write mainstream textbooks or teach from them. As self-criticism constitutes an important source of change for future editions of principles of economics textbooks we need to understand the character of the self-criticism, as well as why it has largely evaporated – as documented below. First I briefly pose some questions concerning why we should care about the theme raised in this chapter. Secondly, a number of methodological considerations related to my study are discussed, especially concerning operationalization and delimitation.
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