The economic system under which we live not only forces the great majority of humankind to live their lives in indignity and poverty but also threatens all forms of life on Earth. Economics Unmasked presents a cogent critique of the dominant economic system, showing that the theoretical constructions of mainstream economics work mainly to bring about injustice.
The merciless onslaught on the global ecosystem of recent decades, brought about by the massive increase in the production of goods and the consequent depletion of nature’s reserves, is not a chance property of the economic system. It is a direct result of neoliberal economic thinking, which recognizes value only in material things. The growth obsession is not a mistaken conception that mainstream economists can unlearn, it is inherent in their view of life. But a socio-economic system based on the growth obsession can never be sustainable.
This book outlines the foundations of a new economics – where justice, human dignity, compassion and reverence for life are the guiding values. Contrary to the absurd assumption of mainstream economists that economics is a value-free science, a new economics must make its values explicit.
Introduction: the case for a new economics
1 From knowledge to understanding
2 The function of economics in society
3 Keynesianism: its rise and fall
4 Honesty and value premises
5 Imitation of the exact sciences: reductionism, mathematical models and Pareto
6 Economic growth
9 The world on a collision course and the need for a new economics
10 A humane economics for the twenty-first century
11 The United States: an underdeveloping nation
12 A non-toxic teaching of economics
13 Implementation: from the village to a global order
References and notes
"...this book has reminded me of the radical changes we need to make to create a better world."
"Much of the language of the book is passionate and emotive but there are some arresting passages."
"One good way for honest economics professors to fight back is to recommend this book to their students."
"Economics Unmasked presents a cogent critique of the dominant economics system in order to help transform our society into one in which all forms of life will be protected."
The world urgently needs original and creative thinking about economics - the sort of thinking that Manfred Max-Neef has been offering for several decades. His latest book (written jointly with Philip B. Smith) is an inspiring statement that there is an alternative to the hollow dream of globalisation. They also provide a long-overdue account of how economics came to dominate modern life and how the market came to dominate the economy. This is a story about power and injustice which is a necessary preliminary to any attempt to bring about social justice or environmental balance.
Philip B. Smith and Manfred Max Neef have done something remarkable and necessary - they have set the self-deceptions of mainstream economics and the real world onto a collision course. Smith, the late physicist, and Max Neef, the economist, conspire effectively to re-attach the lost discipline of economics to the reality of how human society actually operates, and to the biophysical limits of the planet we depend on. For too long, the economics profession convinced itself, and almost everyone else, that the economy can have a life of its own, blind to complex human motivations and relationships, and concious stewardship of the natural world that supports it. This book corrects that failure, and argues passionately that change must come from the roots, in the schools and universities where economics is taught.
Manfred Max-Neef is a Chilean-German economist in the field of international development. His key works are From the Outside Looking in: Experiences in ‘Barefoot Economics’ and Human Scale Development, the latter declared by the University of Cambridge as one of the 50 most important books on sustainability. He taught in Berkeley in the early 1960s and was visiting professor in several US, Latin American and European Universities. He also worked for several UN agencies, and between 1994 and 2002 was Vice-Chancellor of the Universidad Austral de Chile in Valdivia. In 1983 he received the Right Livelihood Award (Alternative Nobel Prize). He holds honorary doctorates from Jordan, Colombia, Argentina and the US, and has been the recipient of the University Award of Highest Honour from Japan. He is the Director of the Economics Institute of the Universidad Austral de Chile.
Philip B. Smith
Philip Bartlett Smith was a American-Dutch experimental physicist. He taught for eight years in Brazil as a McCarthy-era exile, and later joined the University of Groningen as a Professor of Physics, where he remained until his retirement in 1988. He was a member of the Board of Pugwash Netherlands until 2003. He had a tense relationship with his native US, which he labelled “The Holy American Empire” and whose power policy he abhorred. After his retirement he concentrated on the subjects of deep concern to him: disarmament, environment and energy, poverty and world economics. He was co-editor with S. E. Okoye, J. de Wilde and P. Deshingkar of The World at the Crossroads: Towards a sustainable, equitable and livable world and the editor of Dimensions of Sustainability, proceedings of the INES Congress ‘Challenges of Sustainable Development’, Amsterdam, August 1996. Philip passed away on December 15, 2005.