Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Fikret Adaman

  • Credits 6

  • SSD SECS-P/04

  • Language Italian

  • Campus of Bologna

  • Degree Programme Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Economics and Economic Policy (cod. 8420)

    Also valid for Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Economics (cod. 8408)

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

The course aims at the following learning objectives: a) to learn and discuss, at an advanced undergraduate level, how the economic thought has evolved over time, introducing students to the critical comparison of the contributions of the main schools of economics: the classical, the marginalist revolution and its application to the theories of general and partial equilibrium, the current macroeconomic debate between the neo-classical and the Keynesian school; b) to understand specific contributions on themes of economic analysis and concerning figures of economists still important in the international economic debate at the international level, through selected readings of their texts and linking the different positions of economic thought to philosophical foundations and political implications.

Course contents

This course aims at introducing students to the understanding of how economic thought has developed over time—acknowledging that alternative frameworks offering different conceptualisations of the individual-economy-society relationship coexist as of today— by ways of surveying the major controversies over the definition of the objectives, scopes and methodologies of the discipline.

We will start with the rise (and the demise?) of classical political economy (early days-Mercantilism-Physiocracy-Smith-Ricardo-Malthus-Marx), and then will engage with the formation and homogenization of the mainstream neoclassical approach. We will go over the controversies surrounding the definition of the objectives, scope and methodology of the Neoclassical approach. The final topic to be discussed will be the Neoliberal thinking.

Course Outline

  1. Prelude: The central question to be focused will be that of “How one can tell whether a particular bit of economics is good science”, as its answer—if there is one—is vital in making the comparison of these different schools of economic thought possible. A brief outline of the discipline.

  2. The rise (and the demise?) of classical political economy: From the early runners to Smith to Ricardo to Marshall and finally to Marx.

  3. The early years of the Neoclassical School: Jevons-Walras-Marshall. The influence of Newton on Neoclassical thought.

  4. Early discontent: Veblen. The 1929 crisis and its “solution”: Keynes.

  5. Calculation debate: Lange vs Hayek; Dobb; Schumpeter; revival of the debate in the 1980s and 1990s.

  6. Strategic thinking: Why Cournot was a neglected figure? Nash. Rewriting of the Neoclassical economics.

  7. Becker: Everything to be framed as a cost and benefit analysis.

  8. New-institutionalism: Would Veblen approve?

  9. Experimental economics: How rational individuals are?

  10. Neoliberalism: What are we talking about?


Adaman, F. and Devine, P. (1996) “The Economic Calculation Debate”, Cambridge Journal of Economics.

Adaman, F. and Madra, Y.M. (2010) “Public Economics after Neoliberalism: A

Theoretical-historical Perspective”, European Journal of History of Economic Thought.

Becker, G.S. (1968) “Crime and Punishment: An economic approach” [http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0022-3808(196803/04)76:2%3c169:CAPAEA%3e2.0.CO;2-I], The Journal of Political Economy.

Caldas, J.C., N. Costa, N. and Burns, T.R. (2007) “Rethinking Economics: The

Potential Contribution of the Classics”, Cambridge Journal of Economics.

Devine, P. (2006) “Karl Polanyi”, mimeo.

Gordon, D.F. (1965) “The Role of History of Economic Thought in the Understanding of Modern Economic Theory”, American Economic Review.

Greif, A. and Laitin, D. (2005) “A Theory of Endogenous Institutional Change”, American Political Science Review.

Jevons, S.W. (1866) “Brief Account of a General Mathematical Theory of Political Economy”,

The Journal of the Royal Statistical Society.

Keynes, J.M. (1937) “The General Theory of Employment”, Quarterly Journal of


Madra, Y.M. and Adaman, F. (2018) “Neoliberal Turn in the Discipline of Economics:

Depoliticization through Economization”. In Cahill, D., Cooper, M., Konings, M.

and Primrose, D. ed. SAGE Handbook of Neoliberalism.

Santos, A. (2011) “Behavioural and experimental economics: are they really transforming economics?” Cambridge Journal of Economics.

Veblen, T. (1898) “Why is Economics Not an Evolutionary Science”, The Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Optional Text Books

Backhouse, R.E. (2002) The Ordinary Business of Life: A History of Economics from the

Ancient World to the Twenty-First Century. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton

University Press

Hunt, E.K. (2002) History of Economic Thought: A Critical Perspective. Updated Second

Edition. London: Armonk.

Medema, S.G. and Samuels, W.J. (1998) A History of Economic Thought. Princeton:

Princeton University Press.

Roncaglia, A. (2017) A Brief History of Economic Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge

University Press

Sandmo, A. (2011) Economics Evolving: A History of Economic Thought. Princeton:

Princeton University Press.

Screpanti, E. and Zamagni, S. (2005) An Outline of the History of Economic Thought.

Second Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Teaching methods

Attendance is required in the sense that you will be responsible from the materials that will be covered in the lectures. Although doubtless a necessary condition, physical presence in itself does not count for participation. It should be accompanied by both mental presence and an active engagement in classroom discussions. I therefore expect you to raise questions and open up debates. You are very welcomed to criticize any idea that you encounter in readings and discussions. I expect you to have read and made a serious effort to understand the assigned readings.

Assessment methods

Instead of a final exam, you will write a research paper (maximum 4,000 thousand words) and it will be due at the end of the term. You will write a critical survey on the contents of part of the course that has mostly interested you and send it to me by e-mail. You will need to decide on your topic early on in continuous contact with me. A more detailed hand-out will follow.

Office hours

See the website of Fikret Adaman