LONDON – In last month’s European Parliament election, euroskeptic and extremist parties won 25% of the popular vote, with the biggest gains chalked up in France, the United Kingdom, and Greece. These results were widely, and correctly, interpreted as showing the degree of disconnect between an arrogant European elite and ordinary citizens.
Less noticed, because less obviously political, are today’s intellectual rumblings, of which French economist Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, a withering indictment of growing inequality, is the latest manifestation. We may be witnessing the beginning of the end of the neoliberal capitalist consensus that has prevailed throughout the West since the 1980s – and that many claim led to the economic disaster of 2008-2009.
Particularly important is the growing discontent of economics students with the university curriculum. Undergraduates’ discontent matters, because economics has long been the West’s political lodestar.
This discontent was born in the “post-autistic economics movement,” which started in Paris in 2000, and spread to the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. Its adherents’ main complaint was that the mainstream economics taught to students had become a branch of mathematics, disconnected from reality.