Economics and Ethics: Amartya Sen as Point of Departure

Economics as a discipline, in teaching, research and policy, is very poor at ethics. There are six inter-related reasons for this. First, whilst the rigid distinction between positive and normative economics (and theory and fact) has long been recognized in principle to be invalid, the discipline has continued in practice as if nothing were wrong with the separation(s) between the two. Second, economics is negligent of, and backward in, methodology, and so unlikely to interrogate its own ethical or other foundations. Third, economics also neglects its own history as a discipline, and so its own shifting ethical approaches and content. Fourth, economics has been isolated from the other social sciences so that their contribution to ethical questions has been ignored. Fifth, mainstream economics has always been and is now almost absolutely intolerant of heterodox alternatives from which ethical differences might be teased out. Sixth, in sum, with method, methodology, history of economic thought, interdisciplinarity and heterodoxy sidelined to marginal status, this has all meant that economics is extraordinarily lacking in circumspection around the (ethical) meaning and implications of its standard concepts such as production, consumption, utility and the market, let alone development itself. It stumbles among these as if partially sighted, a lack of vision that is compounded in turning to development where the urge to prescribe is rarely matched by attention to context.

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“Fine, Ben. 2004. “Economics and Ethics: Amartya Sen as Point of Departure.” New School Economic Review 1(1): 95-104

Regionalism and Trade: A Glimpse of Africa’s Experience

Regionalism has a long history in Africa. Its earliest manifestations can be traced to the pre-independence period when the regionalist impulse found expression in Pan-Africanism, highlighted in the Pan-African conferences organized in the first half of the last century. A few regional economic groupings were formed during that period, albeit in a colonial context. Two prominent examples dating from that period are the East African Community and the Southern African Customs Union (the world’s oldest customs union).

The struggle for and attainment of independence provided the main impetus for further regional integration, based on the belief that regionalism would result in strengthened political solidarity, mutual consolidation of newly-gained independence and collective
self-reliance. Thus, Africa’s post-independence efforts to implement regionalism focused on both political and economic changes. This article examines the progress made in regionalism in Africa and describes some of its key features, assesses its impact on intra-Africa and external trade in the context of globalization, and draws some conclusions.

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“Otobo, Ejeviome Eloho. 2004. “Regionalism and Trade: A Glimpse of Africa’s Experience.” New School Economic Review 1(1): 75-81

Dialectics and Class in Marxian Economics: David Harvey and Beyond

The clash of different Marxian theories infusing David Harvey’s work reflects a key transitional moment in the development of the Marxian tradition1. He draws deeply from the rich accumulated literature of that tradition’s 150 years. At the same time, the new directions within Marxism that erupted in the 1960s and 1970s profoundly influenced Harvey. Transition within Marxism, itself the product of social changes, shaped certain transitional qualities of Harvey’s work.

In the hundred years after Marx’s death in 1883, Marxism spread rapidly. One or more of its tendencies or interpretations eventually entered the life of every country. Everywhere, among intellectuals, academics, periodicals, newspapers, trade unions, and political
parties, Marxism found adherents who expanded the tradition by contributing perspectives emerging from their varied social circumstances. Even some governments did so. Not surprisingly, such global growth and dissemination provoked intense and
often theoretically creative debates over every aspect of Marx’s legacy. On the one hand, such growth helped the Bolsheviks to organize and to take power in 1917. However, in dialectical fashion, the Bolshevik victory also led to a sharp constriction of those debates
once Stalin took over and solidified the global status of one Marxist tendency as ‘classical Marxism.’ When the Soviet preeminence in defining Marxism began to crumble in the 1960s, formerly marginalized (and often suppressed) Marxist viewpoints re-emerged and new kinds of Marxism arose. They often criticized ‘classical Marxism’ and reignited new debates over the present and future of Marxism. David Harvey’s work reflects and embodies a transitional period within the Marxist tradition.

Harvey reformulates classical Marxism – especially its basic economics – in the light of the issues (including the state, economic crisis, and imperialism) of central concern to social theory and political struggles in the 1960s and 1970s. His 1982 The Limits to Capital does this while also integrating a Marxist geographer’s interest in space and the spatial dimensions of capitalism. Yet already in that book, Harvey recognized that the 1960s and 1970s had also grounded basic issues of epistemology and ontology as central to every social theory, and he explicitly included Marxism (xv). He chose then

The Relevance and Irrelevance of Marxian Economics

During the last century, Marxian thought was often presented as an all comprehensive ideology, a Weltanschauung called ‘Marxism’ or ‘Marxism-Leninism’. The process of producing this ideology started with the popular writings of the late Engels, who not only tried to present a popular version of Marxian theory, but also attempted to satisfy the desire of growing parts of the working class to have their own view of the world, which was distinguished from the dominating views of bourgeois society. The transformation of Marxian theory in Weltanschauung was enforced by the social democratic parties of the late 19th century, which needed short formulas and brief descriptions as weapons of propaganda. This process continued in the writings of Lenin and culminated after his death in ‘Marxism-Leninism’: a deterministic picture of history, an economic picture of society and a mechanical understanding of dialectics as an eternal set of ‘laws of development’ – constructions which served above all as instruments of ideological justification for the policies of the communist parties.

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“Heinrich, Michael. 2004. “Relevance and Irrelevance of Marxian Economics” New School Economic Review 1(1): 54-58

The Steady State Growth Rate in the Neoclassical Theory: A Brief Survey

The so-called ‘marginalist revolution’ took place around the decade of the 70s of the 19th century. It produced a theory of the level and distribution of output based on the endowments of production factors, technology and consumer preferences. In such a theory, economic growth had to be conceived as the result of the increase in the endowments of factors. Early marginalist analyses of economic growth were developed by Alfred Marshall, Gustav Cassel and Knut Wicksell. We, however, start our survey from Robert Solow’s (1956, 1957) formulation of the neoclassical growth model because it later became the basic point of reference for any discussion on neoclassical exogenous and endogenous growth.

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“Zamparelli, Luca. 2004. “The Steady State Growth Rate in the Neoclassical Theory: A Brief Survey.” New School Economic Review 1(1): 42-53

Financial Integration, Growth and Macroeconomic Volatility: Evidence and Interpretations

Has the increased access to capital increased investment? Is increased financial globalization associated with economic growth and macroeconomic stability? This paper reviews the theoretical benefits of financial integration, the ‘consensus’ evidence of its failure to deliver the expected growth and stability, and some alternative interpretations on what is missing to obtain the benefits and avoid the risks.

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“Marca, Massimiliano La. 2004. “Financial Integration, Growth and Macroeconomic Volatility: Evidence and Interpretations” New School Economic Review 1(1): 31-41

Fiscal Policy: A Potent Instrument

There has undoubtedly been a major shift within macroeconomic policy over the past two decades, from the pre-eminence of fiscal policy to that of monetary policy. The latter has gained considerably in importance as an instrument of macroeconomic policy, whereas the former is rarely mentioned in policy discussions anymore, except in the context of limiting its use. We argue in this short paper that fiscal policy remains a powerful instrument for regulating the level of aggregate demand. We discuss two broad aspects of fiscal policy: its status in the eyes of the ‘new consensus’ in macroeconomics, and its institutional aspects.

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“Arestis, Philip and Malcolm Sawyer. 2004. “Fiscal Policy: A Potent Instrument.” New School Economic Review 1(1): 15-21