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An interesting but frustrating and incomplete critique of orthodox academic economics by a Berkeley professor who makes the familiar charge that economics is not ""value neutral"" but in fact committed to liberal ideologies and full of class bias. The recent trend toward increased formalism and mathematicization of economics is assailed for lack of policy relevance and for insufficiently fruitful model-building. Marxist economics is discarded partly on the grounds that it hasn't succeeded in integrating fact and value, and there is no full-blown analysis of Keynesianism, though Ward is critical of it; in fact Keynesian theory is treated more or less like a stepchild of the neoclassical economics which is Ward's basic frame of reference. Neoclassical economics, he insists, can't be saved by tinkering with ""externalities,"" i.e., public costs. All this is elaborated with an unusual degree of philosophical discussion -- the character of knowledge, the varieties of utilitarianism, the nature of a science. With respect to science, Ward takes Thomas Kuhn's fashionable conceptualization and reduces it to a definition of science as a ""social system"" of co-workers and co-thinkers, without reference to the validity of the ideas in question. Thus astrology would presumably quality as a science. This is not a picayune point -- rather it reflects the limitation of the book as a whole. Ward's problem is not that he has failed to come up with a satisfactory alternative economics, but that he declines to discuss the ""real world"" problems which he suggests economics has failed to meet. Poverty, recession, monetary crises, taxation, military spending, inflation, Third World backwardness -- none of these issues is explicitly surveyed, nor does Ward show how neoclassicism, econometrics, etc. try and fail with them, avoid them, or misconstrue them. However crude and incomplete the polemics of the young radical economists, they do plunge into these life-and-death questions. Ward does not; his urbane assaults on lack of ""policy relevance"" accordingly remain hollow.

Pub Date: June 2nd, 1972
Publisher: Basic Books