"That noble science of political economy"
Professor Michael Krätke, Institute for Advanced Studies
Political economy, once at the core and origin of most of the social sciences as we know them today, enjoyed a bad reputation as "dismal science". Thomas Carlyle, John Ruskin, Charles Dickens, just to mention a few, hated it. Political economists, the classics and their critics alike, were quite concerned about the future of modern market societies - they foresaw doom and gloom, great crises and long lasting stagnation. The protagonists of economics proper, purified of history and politics, tried to replace the dismal science by the study of ideal worlds of market equilibrium. The new discipline of economics was invented and established during the first Long Depression, from the 1870s onwards.
Today, again due to a Great economic crisis on the world scale, we are in a similar situation as during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Neoclassical economists have no clue while (Post)Keynesians are deeply divided with respect to the clues they might have. All over the world, junior and senior economists are revolting against the established orthodoxy and their obsolete or, at best, irrelevant wisdoms. Heterodox economists of all sorts share the belief in a revival of an inter- or postdisciplinary science of economics which should and will be capable of asking and answering the big questions - issues like sustainable development, prosperity without growth, the loss of happiness in market economies, the resurgence of unfree labour in various forms, the conflict between efficiency and social inequality, the role of moral values in a world of fictitious commodities, fictitious money and fictitious capital, the causal links between the wealth of some nations and the poverty of others. A new interdiscipline of Political Economy is rising from the turmoil.
Michael Krätke is a Professor of Sociology (Chair for Political Economy) and has been Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies at Lancaster University since January 2009. He is a Fellow of the International Institute for Social History, Amsterdam. After studying Economics, Sociology and Political Science at the Free University of Berlin and Brussels followed by an MA at the Sorbonne (Université Paris I) he finally completed a PhD at the Free University of Berlin in 1980. He has been a professor in Berlin, Bielefeld, New York, Amsterdam and a visiting Professor at many Universities (Aix-en-Provence, Lyon, Kopenhagen, Berkeley, Wuhan, San Diego, Kassel, Florence). He has also received major research grants from EU, DFG, Volkswagen, KNAW, and the UN and in addition worked as Researcher for EU, Worldbank, ILO, OECD.