On Some Fundamental Issues in 21st Century Political Economy
According to Kenneth Boulding, there are different aspects to economics. For Boulding (1970), economics is simultaneously a social, ecological, behavioral, political, mathematical and moral science. This suggests that there are different ways to do, to study, economics. For me, economics is largely a branch of social theory. Hence, it is necessarily historical. Social theorists today study theorists of the past to help come to grips with and understand present issues and concerns; for similar reasons may contemporary economists study past economic theorists. For Mark Blaug, the ‘knock-down’ argument for studying the history of economic thought is that no ‘idea or theory in economics . . . is ever thoroughly understood except as the end-product of a slice of history, the result of some previous intellectual development’ (2001: 156).1 I agree. Indeed, I consider this present study on a few fundamental, common issues in the work of Aristotle, Adam Smith and Karl Marx to be a study both in the history of economic thought and in contemporary theory. Schumpeter once said, apparently borrowing the phrase from Joan Robinson, that economic theory may be considered to be ‘a box of tools’ (1954: 15). The history of economic thought itself may be considered a tool in that box. When coming upon a problem or issue, it may (indeed most likely will) be helpful to ask: what would Adam Smith (probably) say? What would Aristotle (probably) say? What would Karl Marx (probably) say?2 I realize there is a trend among some in the history of...