A Future for Economics: More Encompassing, More Institutional, More Practical
by Christopher Maule
Economics is a discipline fundamentally concerned with effective coordination. In that way, its main concerns are very close to those of governance. Economics, like governance, has evolved considerably over the last half century. This book is a very modest attempt at gauging the relative importance of this tsunami and the way in which it might indicate what will be its future.
This book proposes the reflections on this general theme by eight senior members of the economics profession who have all taught at some time in the Department of Economics at Carleton University in Ottawa — a department that has always been known for its intellectual temerity and for its interest in extending the scope of economics beyond its traditional boundaries.
The Carleton sample of economists who share their views here have practiced in different sub-fields of economics, and have chosen to articulate their views and experiences in very different ways. But their collective experience reflects a broad exposure to the ways in which the discipline has evolved — both in academic circles and in the various organizations and institutions where they have practiced their profession in Canada and abroad.
Without pretending to report on all the major transformations of the various aspects of the discipline over the last 50 years, this compendium of essays provides a sample of informed views about how economics has evolved over that period, and some conjectures about what sort of changes the discipline might experience in the future.
If this eight-dimensional radar has any accuracy, a future for economics might be characterized by a more interdisciplinary work, a greater emphasis on organizational, institutional and behavioural aspects of the social order, a more practical bent and a greater willingness to return to some of the broader perspectives that used to be in good currency in the first half of the last century — while bringing to those perspectives the new insights generated by the giants of the discipline over the last 50 years.
Christopher Maule was a member of Carleton's Economics Department from 1962 to 1964 and from 1970 to 1995 when he retired from full-time teaching. From 1988 to 1993, he was Director of the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, during which time a greater emphasis was placed on economics. His research, much of it co-authored with Carleton colleagues, Keith Acheson and Al Litvak, emphasized the role of multinational corporations in the context of international trade, investment and migration, and on the political economy of the cultural industries. Since 2000, he has written a blog dealing with a range of topics many of which have an economic dimension.