Breaking the Neoclassical Monopoly in Economics

Just as philosophers are divided on the nature of truth and understanding, economics is divided on the workings of the real world. Yet, in practice, the dominance of the belief in “one economics,” particularly in North America and Europe, has led increasingly to a narrow and exclusionary view of the discipline.

For 25 years, the so-called “Washington Consensus” – comprising measures aimed at expanding the role of markets and constraining the role of the state – has dominated economic development policy. As John Williamson, who coined the term, put it in 2002, these measures “are motherhood and apple pie, which is why they commanded a consensus.”

Not anymore. Dani Rodrik, a renowned Harvard University economist, is the latest to challenge the intellectual foundations of the Washington Consensus in a powerful new book titled One Economics, Many Recipes: Globalization, Institutions, and Economic Growth . Rodrik’s thesis is that though there is only one economics, there are many recipes for development success.

Rodrik has rendered a major service by stating so openly the claim of “one economics.” A critic who made the same claim that economics allows only one theoretical approach would be dismissed as paranoid, whereas Rodrik’s standing creates an opportunity for a debate that would not otherwise be possible.

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