Edited by Jesper Jespersen and Mogens Ove Madsen
Chapter 10: Teaching Keynes’s theory to neoclassically formed minds
Keynes’s theory is difficult to teach partly because it is not the first (economic) language with which people have to deal. Students first spend hours and hours learning neoclassical language, including the flawed neoclassical approach to Keynes’s theory, with the result that neoclassical economics tends to become their ‘natural’ way to think and speak about economics. Hence the teaching of the genuine Keynes theory requires dealing with two intellectually related heavy tasks: first, unlearn or deconstruct the ‘natural language’ (recognize, for example, that price flexibility does not necessarily involve market clearing, that competitive forces do not involve market efficiency in general, that public intervention is not necessarily the devil. . .), and, secondly, start learning a new economic language from the beginning. One difficulty is that both neoclassical and Keynes’s economics often refer to common words with different meanings. Both Keynes’s and neoclassical theory deal with the economy in terms of a market system, with individuals and firms drawing supply and demand plans in a (more or less) competitive way. But theories, as languages, are made of concepts rather than words, that is, of word meanings, so that common words may mean different things depending on the methodological framework. As Keynes emphasized the methodological importance of true uncertainty, the way individuals take rational decisions in his theory differs sharply from the mainstream’s inter-temporal optimization principle, with the result that the market functioning and the whole system properties also differ sharply.
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