A Case for Pluralism

Professor John E. King, Economics at La Trobe University

The 2012 Keith Hancock Lecture co-presented with the School of Economics in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Economics is unique among the social sciences in having a single monolithic mainstream, which is either unaware of or actively hostile to alternative approaches.

Professor John King presents a case for pluralism in economics, derived from the complex and ceaselessly changing nature of the world in which we live. He will concentrate on two arguments. First, economic reality is very complicated, so that the questions that economists ask are therefore inherently difficult, and it is unlikely that they have simple answers. Since no theory can consider all relevant factors in any particular economic context, this establishes a strong prima facie case for theoretical pluralism. Second, economic reality is fluid and subject to continuous change, so that the quest for a single, ‘general’ theory applicable to human behaviour in all societies, at all points in time, is a delusion. To illustrate the case for pluralism Professor King will draw on the recent history of the global economy, the problems encountered in understanding it solely in terms of mainstream macroeconomics, and the dangerous policy implications that have been drawn from mainstream theory.

John E. King is Professor of Economics at La Trobe University in Melbourne, where he has taught since 1988. His principal research interests are in the history of heterodox economic thought, with particular reference to Marxian political economy and Post Keynesian economics.

His recent publications include The Rise of Neoliberalism in Advanced Capitalism: a Materialist Analysis with M.C. Howard (2008), Nicholas Kaldor (2009) and The Microfoundations Delusion (2012). He is also the editor of The Elgar Companion to Post Keynesian Economics ( 2012). Professor King is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia (FASSA).

The Keith Hancock Lecture

Every two years the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia honours one of its past Presidents, Professor Keith J Hancock, with a named public lecture presented by a scholar who has achieved excellence in their chosen field. The Academy has selected Professor John Edward King of the Department of Economics and Finance at La Trobe University to present the 2012 Keith Hancock Lecture.