Monday, 5 September 2016

Family trees of economics: Austrian v Heterodox



The other day I mentioned Richard Ebeling’s excellent introduction to Austrian economics, for which he produced the “family tree” (above) on which he’s been working  for many years.

When I was a graduate student [says Peter Boettke, who appears on the tree] Don Lavoie had a cube on his desk as a gift from Ebeling that had 3 awesome photos of Mises and then 1 side an earlier version of this family tree.

What a great gift idea! Note to self …

Anyway, there will always be debate about what should be included in such a tree. ( I reckon Mises’ two other students at NYU demand inclusion: Hans Sennholz and the great George Reisman). And Boettke suggests the tree itself needs updating again now “to include the doctoral students produced since the 1990s and also the doctoral students of those doctoral students,” citing several dozen major thinkers who have moved and are moving the intellectual world in a better direction (name giving some of us plenty of reading to do over the next few years!).

The Austrian School [he concludes] should be attractive to young minds -- it unlocks the mystery of commercial life, it helps make sense of non-commercial life, and it is humanistic in its method and humanitarian in its basic normative stance.  The analysis provided tears asunder the pretenses of both those with privileges and those with power.  Its analysis points to the future possibilities of a better world for the individual and for the society -- one where diverse groups of free and responsible individuals can learn to live better together than they ever could apart; where individuals have the opportunity to prosper in a vibrant and dynamic market economy, and where individuals can live and be actively engaged in creating caring communities.  At the core of the MIsesian system is the insights of what makes possible social cooperation under the division of labor.  The message, and how we learn to appreciate those insights through a unique methodological and analytical approach to the sciences of man, must be paramount in our teaching and I would add our research.  And these "new" Austrians are doing this in ways that are so exciting and so promising that it is hard not to be simply intellectually blown away by the new demonstrations of the power of the ideas first developed by Menger and Bohm-Bawerk, by Mises and Hayek, by Kirzner and Rothbard, etc.  Austrian economics is a growth industry and it is showing no signs of slowing down.

There’s been a lot of commentary around the traps debating many of the suggestions, a few of which focussed on my own family tree produced a few years ago for Auckland Uni’s Economics Group that aims to show a more general overview of the major roots (and routes) of thought, and a greater focus on the thinkers who got us here rather than the plethora working today (who would tend to overwhelm the tree’s undergrowth).W-01 Economists Family Tree - Large

Every general overview of a vast human science will have its own focus. A few folk for instance (probably correctly) wanted me to add the members of the New Insitutional School). Several complained about me ignoring Weiser and the school that followed him. A few bitched about the “left” side of the tree ignoring “a whole host of interesting Marxists,” and the top ignoring Aristotle! And then several who’ve used it in their classes complained to me about it already being too bloody complicated!! 

Economics family trees are rarer than you may think, and as I searched for some of these older comments brought up one of the few other broader overviews I’ve seen, one which that fairly illustrates my point about ‘focus.’ My tree was done in part to demonstrate the more broadly Austrian ‘Productionist’ stream from the Neoclassical ‘Consumptionist’ mainstream (see here for this crucial distinction). This one, by Post-Keynesian Jo Mitchell, aims to distinguish between the mainstream and ‘heterodox’ schools (and, not incidentally, promote her own).

FamilyTreebyJoMtchell- Heterodox v Maintsream

I doubt even our Marxists would be too happy with that one. Nor any Austrians, who appear in this one to simply wither on  the vine.


1 comment:

  1. There is always the question of, Are the Austrians heterodox? Up until the 1930s the Austrian were seen as a part of the neoclassical family and it's hard, even today, to see Austrians as having more in common with obvious heterodox groups such the Marxists and post-Keynesians than the neoclassicals.


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