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Plural Economics
Wednesday Sep 19th, 2012 12:14 PM
Vancouver Canada has 23 community centers, some with swimming pools that can take your breath away. Learning from other cultures and countries is a sign of strength, not weakness. All people should share in the gains of productivity. Without a social contract, we become wolves. Without public goods, the market economy cannot survive. Beware of Social Darwinism!


[This letter published September 11, 2012 is translated from the German on the Internet.]

Dear Members of the Association for Social Policy, Frankfurt,

We students and teachers of economics at over 50 universities in German-speaking cities want to call attention to the alarming state of our discipline and collaborate constructively in the restructuring of economics. For decades, faith in the self-regulating powers of the market, the dominant model-Platonism, deficient self-reflection and lacking diversity of methods and theories have led our discipline into a cul-de-sac. The one-sidedness of economic thinking contributes to the continuing economic crisis and the lack of perspectives in this crisis.

Economists have great influence in public discourse. Economists join in social decision-making processes through many research- and advisory institutes and the council of experts. As frequently cited experts, they support the one-sidedness of current economic thinking in society. As economists, we have a great social responsibility. We can only do justice to this responsibility by renewing economics with a pluralist view of economic problems.

We call all teachers and students to cooperate in restructuring our discipline and considering the following principles in teaching and research.



The focus of present teaching and research is on variants of basic neoclassical models. Little room exists for research and teaching beyond these variants at German universities. This "intellectual monoculture" restricts economic analysis and makes it prone to errors. We urge cooperation of different theories. Economics is a social science and like other social sciences must harbor diverse theoretical approaches. Promising but largely neglected current approaches include: all institution economics, evolutionary economics, feminist economics, happiness research, Marxist economics, ecological economics, post-Keynesianism and post-growth economics.


The mathematization of economics has led to teaching decaying to applied mathematics. Mathematics may only be a means and never an end-in-itself for economists. It should be a part of a varied discipline of methods in the research and teaching of economics.

For research, this means inter- and trans-disciplinary case studies, comparisons of theories, interviews, questionnaires, empathic observation, simulation models and analysi8s. The teaching models, for example, must be expanded through plural textbooks, small group study, project seminars, inter- and trans-disciplinary events, case studies and the study of primary texts.


Too often the basic assumptions of economics are neither explicitly explained nor questioned. These assumptions frequently have a normative and a descriptive nature. Certain value-judgments are ultimately inherent in every political-economic analysis. Reflection on these value-judgments is a necessary part of research work.

The mathematization of economics leads to a veiling of value-judgments and to a supposed rationalization of political problems. Economics is not a natural science despite all attempts at defining the discipline through mathematics.

In addition students of economics must be more sensitive for the framing historical and cultural conditions of economic behavior. Only the one who is conscious of the complexity of reality can rightly apply research methods. Only in this way does no danger exist of confusing models with reality. All economists must know the history of their discipline and its theoretical foundations of research. Therefore lectures, seminars and courses on the history of economic thinking and economic theory must be part of the curriculum.

As the largest association of economists in the German language area, we accept the obligation of taking criticism seriously and implementing the following demands:

1. Diversity of theories in research and teaching
2. Diversity of methods in research and teaching
3. Expansion of curriculum in lectures, seminars and courses on the history of economic thinking, research theory and interdisciplinary events
4. Integration of plural textbooks in study
5. Turning away from the impact factor as the sole standard for good research
6. Reserving at least 20% of all professorships for heterodox economists

To emphasize our demands, we will do our utmost for transparency. On the homepage, we document how the organization of study at our universities takes account of our demands.

Yours Sincerely,

Concerned students and teachers of economics