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The future for schools of thought in pluralist economics


  • Sheila C. Dow

    (Department of Economics, University of Stirling, Scotland)


An occasion such as this first ICAPE conference reflects an increasing coherence, and openness to communication, among the different strands of economics. The purpose of this paper is to address the questions this raises as to whether or not there is still a useful role for the concept of schools of thought. We explore first the categories of orthodox economics and heterodox economics and how we can expect them to develop in the future. In particular, is the relationship between orthodoxy and heterodoxy dualistic, and if so where does this leave pluralism in general and schools of thought within heterodox economics in particular? The meaning of pluralism is explored further with respect to heterodox economics, and the notion of structured pluralism is developed. Structured pluralism can be understood in terms of categories, connections and absence of connections, which, like pluralism, can be applied at a variety of levels. Categories are necessary for knowledge, and some (incomplete) connectivity is necessary for the process of building up new knowledge. The social system, similarly, functions by means of the categorisation of institutions, and (incomplete) connections between them. In the same way, schools of thought are a necessary part of the process of building up and communicating economic knowledge, within a pluralist framework. It is concluded therefore that schools of thought will continue to play an important role in terms of different communities and approaches within heterodox economics. But it is in the nature of structured pluralism that the structure is partial, and thus not all-encompassing. It is also provisional and therefore subject to change. In this way schools of thought are enabling rather than constraining.

Suggested Citation

  • Sheila C. Dow, 2003. "The future for schools of thought in pluralist economics," SCEME Working Papers: Advances in Economic Methodology 005/2003, SCEME.
  • Handle: RePEc:sti:wpaper:005/2003

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    pluralism; heterodox-economics;

    JEL classification:

    • B4 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology


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