David Colander - Why Aren't Economists as Important as Garbagemen?. PDF

PDF This is Colander’s take on the state of economics (both the discipline and the profession) at the beginnings of the 90’s decade. It’s a collection of essays which, from various angles, examines why economics is as it is (was back then), what forces keep it that way and what can and should be done to change it.

This is not, as the tittle might suggest, a rant about how wrong mainstream (neoclassical) economics is. Neither is it a militant defence of the virtues of heterodox economics or a naive exposition of just how great everything would be if mainstream economics were dethroned. These essays are indeed critical of the mainstream but Colander states clearly that if mainstream economics has issues heterodox economics isn’t actually that much better.

This is a very interesting contribution to the sociology of economics. Colander presents a powerful example of how a sociological reading of the profession can give us powerful insights into its evolution. The criteria that, according to Colander, a paradigm in economics should meet to be successful is very useful and powerful, not only for the 90’s case but for the current state of economics. In particular, the reasons he saw behind the improbable changes of the curricula of undergraduate programs during the 90’s are still valid. The fact that what is taught to undergraduates remains pretty much the same is evidence of the soundness of Colander’s thinking.

I’m not sure of just how original are Colander’s ideas about the sociology of a profession, maybe if I read about the sociology of other professions I will find a similar reasoning. However, Colander is clearly one of the forerunners of the sociology of economics. He has been a keen observer of the evolution of the profession (which he has felt in his own flesh) and has made an invaluable contribution to understanding the reasons behind it.

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