Ideology in Economics

  • Warren J. Samuels


This chapter explores the sensitive issue of the degree to which economics is infused with ideology. It summarizes, interprets, and assesses the discussion of this question within economics from the 1950s to the mid-1970s.


Economic Theory Social Control American Economic Review Cognitive System Economic Freedom 
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Bibliographical Notes

  1. The preeminent literature includes the following: Joseph A. Schumpeter, ‘Science and Ideology’, American Economic Review, vol. 39 (1949), pp. 345–59, reprinted in Essays (Cambridge, Mass.: Addision-Wesley, 1951), pp. 267–81, and History of Economic Analysis (New York: Oxford University Press, 1954);Google Scholar
  2. Joan Robinson, Economic Philosophy (Chicago: Aldine, 1962);Google Scholar
  3. Ronald L. Meek, Economics and Ideology and Other Essays (London: Chapman & Hall, 1967);Google Scholar
  4. Oskar Lange, Political Economy (Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1963);Google Scholar
  5. Mark Blaug, Economic Theory in Retrospect, revised edn (Homewood, Ill.: Irwin, 1968);Google Scholar
  6. T. W. Hutchison, ‘Positive Economics and Policy Objectives (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1964);Google Scholar
  7. Maurice Dobb, Theories of Value and Distribution Since Adam Smith: Ideology and Economic Theory (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1973);CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. and Gunnar Myrdal, The Political Element in the Development of Economic Theory (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1955), Value in Social Theory (New York: Harper, 1958), Objectivity in Social Research (New York: Pantheon, 1969), and Against the Stream: Critical Essays on Economics (New York: Pantheon, 1973).Google Scholar
  9. Suggestive contributions from contemporary Marxian and radical perspectives also may be found in Paul M. Sweezy, ‘Toward a Critique of Economics’, Review of Radical Political Economics, vol. 2 (1970), pp. 1–8;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. George Lichtheim, The Concept of Ideology and Other Essays (New York: Random House, Vintage, 1967);Google Scholar
  11. Ralph Miliband, The State in Capitalist Society (New York: Basic Books, 1969);Google Scholar
  12. and E. K. Hunt and Jesse G. Schwartz (eds), A Critique of Economic Theory (New York: Penguin, 1972).Google Scholar
  13. The matter of psychological conditioning is discussed in A. L. Macfie, ‘Economics — Science, Ideology, Philosophy?’, Scottish Journal of Political Economy, vol. 10 (1963), pp. 212–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Programmatic aspects are discussed in Robert L. Heilbroner, ‘Economics as a “Value-Free” Science’, Social Research, vol. 40 (1973), pp. 129–43;Google Scholar
  15. and in Adolph Lowe, On Economic Knowledge (New York: Harper & Row, 1965).Google Scholar
  16. Property and ideology is discussed in Frederic L. Pryor, Property and Industrial Organization in Communist and Capitalist Nations (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973), especially pp. 433–7.Google Scholar
  17. The harmony and conflict dichotomy in paradigm construction is neatly found in two companion articles: James M. Buchanan, ‘A Contractarian Paradigm for Applying Economic Theory’, American Economic Review, Papers and Proceedings, vol. 65 (1975), pp. 225–30,Google Scholar
  18. and Duncan K. Foley, ‘Problems vs. Conflicts: Economic Theory and Ideology’, American Economic Review, Papers and Proceedings, vol. 65 (1975), pp. 231–6.Google Scholar
  19. Concerning ideology in capital theory, albeit in a highly technical discussion, see G. C. Harcourt, Some Cambridge Controversies in the Theory of Capital (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1972);CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. for a discussion relevant thereto but also touching broader considerations, see, Edward Nell, ‘Economics: The Revival of Political Economy’, in Robin Blackburn (ed.), Ideology in Social Science (New York: Random House, Vintage, 1973), pp. 76–95.Google Scholar
  21. Still other aspects are discussed in John Kenneth Galbraith, ‘Economics as a System of Belief’, American Economic Review, Papers and Proceedings, vol. 60 (1970), pp. 469–78;Google Scholar
  22. Kenneth E. Boulding, ‘Economics as a Moral Science’, American Economic Review, vol. 59 (1969), pp. 1–12;Google Scholar
  23. and Erskine McKinley, ‘Mankind in the History of Economic Thought’, in Bert F. Hoselitz (ed.), Economics and the Idea of Mankind (New York: Columbia University Press, 1965), pp. 1–40.Google Scholar
  24. A wide ranging critique of neoclassical and Marxist schools as systems of beliefs is given in Benjamin Ward, What’s Wrong with Economics? (New York: Basic Books, 1972).Google Scholar
  25. For Frank H. Knight’s quest for a propaganda for economic freedom, see his ‘Theory of Economic Policy and the History of Doctrine’, Ethics, vol. 63 (1953), pp. 276–92; ‘The Role of Principles in Economics and Politics’, American Economic Review, vol. 41 (1951), pp. 1–29; and his earlier article, ‘The Newer Economics and the Control of Economic Activity’, Journal of Political Economy, vol. 40 (1932), pp. 433–76; and on Knight, see R. A. Gonce, ‘Frank H. Knight on Social Control and the Scope and Method of Economics’, Southern Economic Journal, vol. 38 (1972), pp. 547–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. For the institutionalist approach to ideological responsibility, see C. E. Ayres, ‘Ideological Responsibility’, Journal of Economic Issues, vol. 1 (1967), pp. 3–11. On the ideology of wealth, compare Lord Robbins, The Theory of Economic Development in the History of Economic Thought (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1968), especially pp. 150–76;Google Scholar
  27. and Eugene Rotwein, ‘The Ideology of Wealth and the Liberal Economic Heritage: The Neglected View’, Social Research, vol. 40 (1973), pp. 267–92.Google Scholar
  28. On the complex ethical character of Paretooptimality, see Warren J. Samuels, ‘Welfare Economics, Power and Property’, in G. Wunderlich and W. L. Gibson, Jr (eds), Perspectives of Property (University Park, Pa.: Institute for Research on Land and Water Resources, Pennsylvania State University, 1972), pp. 61–148.Google Scholar
  29. An exchange of interpretations of ideology, among other considerations, is found in James M. Buchanan and Warren J. Samuels, ‘On Some Fundamental Issues in Political Economy: An Exchange of Correspondence’, Journal of Economic Issues, vol. 9 (1975), pp. 15–38.Google Scholar
  30. Important materials from philosophy of science sources bearing on ideology in economics, often directly considered, are found in the following: Ernest Nagel, The Structure of Science (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1961);Google Scholar
  31. May Brodbeck, Readings in the Philosophy of the Social Sciences (New York: Macmillan, 1968);Google Scholar
  32. Maurice Natanson (ed.), Philosophy of the Social Sciences (New York: Random House, 1963);Google Scholar
  33. Elmer Sprague and Paul W. Taylor (eds), Knowledge and Value, 2nd edn (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1967);Google Scholar
  34. and Gustav Bergmann, The Metaphysics of Logical Positivism (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1967).Google Scholar
  35. A wide ranging collection of essays is found in Sherman Roy Krupp (ed.), The Structure of Economic Science (Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, 1966).Google Scholar
  36. The matrix approach to comparative study of doctrine is summarized in Warren J. Samuels, ‘The History of Economic Thought as Intellectual History’, History of Political Economy. vol. 6 (1974). pp. 305–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Ideology in the history of economic thought is discussed in Robert V. Eagly (ed.), Events, Ideology and Economic Theory (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1968); Alexander Gerschenkron, ‘History of Economic Doctrines and Economic History’, American Economic Review, Papers and Proceedings, vol. 59 (1969), pp. 1–17;Google Scholar
  38. and Warren S. Gramm, ‘Natural Selection in Economic Thought: Ideology, Power, and the Keynesian Counterrevolution’, Journal of Economic Issues, vol. 7 (1973), pp. 1–27.Google Scholar
  39. Contributions to the study of the development of ideology as a dependent and independent economic variable are to be found in George J. Stigler, ‘The Intellectual and His Society’, in Richard T. Selden (ed.), Capitalism and Freedom (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1975);Google Scholar
  40. Robert A. Solo, The Political Authority and the Market System (Cincinnati: Southwestern, 1974), especially ch. 1;Google Scholar
  41. Alexander Eckstein (ed.), Comparison of Economic Systems (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971);Google Scholar
  42. and Warren J. Samuels, Pareto on Policy (New York: Elsevier, 1974).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Warren J. Samuels 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Warren J. Samuels
    • 1
  1. 1.Michigan State UniversityUSA

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