Book Review “Meta-Analyses of Micro- and Macroeconomic Textbooks” by Sebastian Berger

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Once upon a time, Germany – The Country of Poets and Thinkers (in German: Deutschland – das Land der Dichter und Denker) may have been an accurate description; not least because of the major contributions Germans made to economic thinking from Marx, List and Schmoller, to Weber, Schumacher and Kapp. However, after reading the results of Helge Peukert’s study of economic textbooks assigned at German universities, the uncanny question arises: Germany – country of translators and brainwashers? Indeed, much depends on the validity, meaning, and implications of the findings of one of Germany’s leading heterodox economists who conducted this project at the recently launched pluralist economics program of the University of Siegen, partly financed by the Research Institute for the Progressive Development of Society (Forschungsinstitut für Gesellschaftliche Weiterentwicklung).

Both books are structured as follows: the introductory chapters focus on distinguishing varieties of what may be called neoclassical and heterodox paradigms, or communities. It then develops an analytical framework that consists of meta-paradigmatic elements underlying these paradigms. These elements cross-fertilise the paradigms so that there is no hard boundary between them but rather a complex web of neoclassical and heterodox paradigms. Peukert’s analytical framework is inspired by Ludwik Fleck’s theory of science, which argues that ‘thought collectives’ engage in the social construction of reality based on ‘archetypal ideas’ (read: meta-theoretical elements) that reflect the ‘spirit of the times’. With the aid of this framework, the main chapters assess in detail the dominating micro and macro textbooks, i.e., Varian (2016), Pindyck and Rubinfeld (2015), Mankiw (2016) and Blanchard and Illing (2017). The guiding questions of Peukert’s study are: how scientific or ideological are these textbooks? What meta-paradigmatic elements can be identified in each chapter?

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