By Robert Skidelsky

What's Wrong with Economics? A Primer for the Perplexed
Editions:Hardcover: $ 25.00 USD
ISBN: 9780300249873
Pages: 248

A passionate and informed critique of mainstream economics from one of the leading economic thinkers of our time

This insightful book looks at how mainstream economics’ quest for scientific certainty has led to a narrowing of vision and a convergence on an orthodoxy that is unhealthy for the field, not to mention the societies which base policy decisions on the advice of flawed economic models. Noted economic thinker Robert Skidelsky explains the circumstances that have brought about this constriction and proposes an approach to economics which includes philosophy, history, sociology, and politics.

Skidelsky’s clearly written and compelling critique takes aim at the way that economics is taught in today’s universities, where a focus on modelling leaves students ill-equipped to grapple with what is important and true about human life. He argues for a return to the ideal set out by John Maynard Keynes that the economist must be a “mathematician, historian, statesman, [and] philosopher” in equal measure.

The trailer for an online course by Skidelsky on the topics also addressed by the book (see table of contents further down on this page):


Reviews:Diane coyle on The Enlightened Economist wrote:

"I didn’t expect to enjoy Robert Skidelsky’s new book, What’s Wrong With Economics: A Primer for the Perplexed, for he has long been forthright about his low opinion of economics and economists; and so it proved. He makes some good points, nevertheless. [...] In sum, there is indeed much here that I and many other economists of my acquaintance agree with. Big ticks to history, institutions, psychological realism, even to acquaintance with sociology or anthropology. So why did I not enjoy the book? It talks about 'the poverty of neoclassical economics under its carapace of techniques.' This is absurd. While certainly there is some excess ‘mathiness‘, technique is a vital thing in any discipline. [...] But above all, despite insisting on the importance on both economic history and the history of economic thought, the book is ahistorical in its approach to economics. It attacks an economics it labels as ‘mainstream’ or ‘neoclassical’. Whatever it means by mainstream, this isn’t what most economists do. As ever in such critiques, the book only talks about macroeconomics, doesn’t cite a single piece of applied microeconomics, but above all ignores the fact that economics has changed in the past 10, 20, 30 years. I do think there are serious methodological issues in the present (‘mainstream’) economic paradigm [...] Meanwhile, What’s Wrong With Economics is concise, clearly and elegantly written and spends half its length demonstrating that the other half is – well, about what’s right with economics."

About Robert Skidelsky

Robert Skidelsky is an emeritus professor of political economy at the University of Warwick who specializes in economic history. Among others he has written a major, award-winning, three-volume biography of the economist John Maynard Keynes.

Table of Contents of What's Wrong with Economics?

The link for each chapter goes to a short lecture on the topic by Skidelsky, as part of the online course 'How and How Not to Do Economics, which he recorded for the Institute for New Economic Thinking in 2019.

  1. Why Methodology?
  2. The Basics: Wants and Means
  3. Economic Growth
  4. Equilibrium
  5. Models and Laws
  6. Economic Psychology
  7. Sociology and Economics
  8. Institutional Economics
  9. Economics and Power
  10. Why Study the History of Economic Thought?
  11. Economic History
  12. Ethics and Economics
  13. Retreat from Omniscience
  14. The Future of Economics