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19 March 2012


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Eric Schliesser

On facebook the distinguished philosopher of economics, Anna Alexandrova, suggests *The Very Short Introduction to Economics* by Partha Dasgupta.

John Protevi

A good popularization, taking a Keynesian approach to criticizing the mainstream in light of the Global Financial Crisis, is John Quiggin, Zombie Economics.

But this is much too simple for the purpose of introducing people to phil of econ. Still, I found it useful for a very first slice at things.

Eric Schliesser

Well, the question is not about what to read in order to do philo of economics, but to become acquainted with economics. Quiggin is brilliant, of course, but he does not give you a good feel for how professional economists tend to think.


My two cents: Beginners should start with Heilbroner's fun 'The worldly philosophers'. Then read some popular stuff, like Krugman's 'Peddling prosperity', Tim Harford's 'The undercover economist' and other examples of the genre. If this is enjoyable, read as much as possible of Schumpeter's incredible/insane/compelling 'History of economic analysis'. Then read Samuelson.

John Thrasher

I don't think there is an substitute for a real graduate level microeconomics textbook for instance Microeconomic Analysis by Hal Varian or Microeconomic Theory by Mas-Collel, et al. Value and Capital by John Hicks is also an excellent, approachable text. Daniel Hausman's new book Preference, Value, Choice, and Welfare is also an excellent, approachable, text for beginners and also of interest to those more seasoned. This is perhaps not for beginners, but Herbert Gintis's The Bounds of Reason, though not explicitly on philosophy of economics raises particularly interesting questions and proposes some new solutions to several classical economic problems, as does Vernon Smith's Rationality in Economics.

Eric Schliesser

Gintis and Smith are certainly very much worth reading for any philosopher. I think reading Samuelson straight through is more advantageous to a philosopher than a textbook because one actually sees how the textbook was argued into existence (and gets enough glimpses of opposition). But if one goes for a textbook, why not simply Samuelson?

Eric Schliesser

Schumpeter's History is a bit dated for folk interested in contemporary economics, but it has the advantage that we know that Rawls read parts of it very carefully. [Disclosure: my dissertation was explicitly meant as a refutation on Schumpeter on Adam Smith.]


Paul Heyne's Students Guide to Econ is a good 64 page primer. I don't remember exactly what's in it, but I do remember it's a good discussion of the history and theoretical basis of economics.

Thomas Schelling's discussion of economics and accounting identities in "What do economists know" is
helpful in understanding . . . what economists know.

Eric Schliesser

Yeah, I would also recommend that Schelling piece.

N.J. Jun

Maybe this is more history of econ stuff, but...

Heilbroner's "The Worldly Philosophers" and "The Nature and Logic of Capitalism"
Muller's "The Mind and the Market"
Chapters 6-12 of "The Great Transformation"
Braudel's "Capitalism and Civilization"


Useful,thought maybe not for total beginners,are the New Palgrave Encyclopedia volumes. Many are quite cheap on Amazon. They are not the place to start but are good for filling gaps.

Eric Schliesser

Agrees, Matt. I use it in that fashion.


Since Smith, Braudel, and Polanyi have been covered,

Philip Mirowski (requires some serious background in philosophy of science),

"More Heart than Light: Economics as Social Physics, Physics as Nature's Economics"

"Machine Dreams: Economics Becomes a Cyborg Science"

Daniel Hausman, "The Inexact and Separate Science of Economics" [Alternative: Deidre McCloskey, "The Rhetoric of Economics"]

Ariel Rubinstein, "Presidential Address to the American Econometric Society"

Thorstein Veblen, "Why Economics is not an evolutionary science"

Eric Schliesser

All interesting reading, but none gives a good introduction to economics. (With Mirowski one has to be a bit cautious about his presentation of the facts.)


I thought that the McCloskey book had a tolerable introduction on how economists are socialized to think (and how they go about thinking and conceptualizing); I left out some of Herbert Simon's papers and a couple of his books where he reviews the microfoundations of economics...


Sorry, and Rubinstein's address came out as an article entitled "Dilemmas of an economic theorist"


Perhaps this is uninspired, but when I decided that I needed to know more about the views of mainstream economists, I read a mainstream economics textbook:

Eric Schliesser

Yeah, textbooks were mentioned above (see 5&6). I still think à smart, ambitious philosopher is netter off just reading Samuelson's collected papers (or his textbook, which is THE model for the others).


Eric, there are seven volumes of Samuelson's papers. Any volumes in particular?

Eric Schliesser

The four first volumes take one up to mid 1970s, and contain over 250 articles. That includes nearly all his classic articles. (One can also create one's reading by using the fifty highest cited Samuelson articles via

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