What’s the difference between heterodox and orthodox economics?

9 Apr, 2015 at 21:25 | Posted in Economics | 2 Comments


Marc Lavoie comes up with this table — in his new book Post-Keynesian Economics: New Foundations — when trying to identify what are the essential differences between these two research programmes in economics. Interesting and provocative.


  1. No difference
    Comment on ‘What’s the difference between heterodox and orthodox economics?’
    First of all one has to distinguish between theoretical and political economics. The goal of political economics is to push an agenda, the goal of theoretical economics is to explain how the actual economy works.
    It is important to clearly understand that political economics is not and never can be part of science.
    A look a Lavoie’s table shows that in the column Presupposition the item Political core appears. This shows that Lavoie has not grasped what science is all about. Solely the first four items of the table belong to the realm of science.
    With regard to the political dimension the difference between Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy consists in different agendas. With regard to the scientific dimension there is no difference, both approaches are out of science.
    Currently, neither orthodox nor heterodox economists understand how the economy works. Marc Lavoie is right: economics needs a paradigm shift. To provide the new foundations of economics is the task of Constructive Heterodoxy.*
    By the way, the difference between agenda pushing and science is known since J. S. Mill.
    “A scientific observer or reasoner, merely as such, is not an adviser for practice. His part is only to show that certain consequences follow from certain causes, and that to obtain certain ends, certain means are the most effectual. Whether the ends themselves are such as ought to be pursued, and if so, in what cases and to how great a length, it is no part of his business as a cultivator of science to decide, and science alone will never qualify him for the decision.” (Mill, 2006, p. 950)
    Egmont Kakarot-Handtke
    Mill, J. S. (2006). A System of Logic Ratiocinative and Inductive. Being a Connected
    View of the Principles of Evidence and the Methods of Scientific Investigation,
    volume 8 of Collected Works of John Stuart Mill. Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund.
    * for cross-references see

  2. This is partially true. The section “Political core” needs to be changed. There are heterodox schools of thought in economics that also believe in “unfettered market optimism”. The Austrian School is a perfect example.

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