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The turn in economics: neoclassical dominance to mainstream pluralism?

  • JOHN B. DAVIS (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 18 April 2006

This paper investigates whether since the 1980s neoclassical economics has been in the process of being supplanted as the dominant research programme in economics by a collection of competing research approaches which share relatively little in common with each other or with neoclassical economics. A shortlist of the new approaches in recent economics includes game theory, experimental economics, behavioral economics, evolutionary economics, neuroeconomics, and non-linear complexity theory. Two hypotheses are advanced – one regarding the relation between economics instruction and economics research and one regarding the nature of the economics research frontier – to describe social-institutional practices that contribute to the replication of economics as a field. Two further hypotheses are advanced – one regarding the boundaries of the field and one regarding how the field appraises itself – to create a historical–methodological framework for evaluating the question of change in economics and change in recent economics in particular. Finally, the paper distinguishes three leading explanations – the ‘breakdown’ view, the ‘takeover’ view, and the ‘maturity’ view – of why neoclassical economics no longer dominates a mainstream economics.

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I am grateful for comments on previous versions of this paper to Jack Amariglio, Mark Blaug, David Colander, Wade Hands, Matthias Klaes, Philip Mirowski, Jorma Sappinen, Esther-Mirjam Sent, Roy Weintraub, James Wible, and the reviewers of this journal. The usual disclaimer applies.
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Journal of Institutional Economics
  • ISSN: 1744-1374
  • EISSN: 1744-1382
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-institutional-economics
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