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Economics: The User's Guide

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  5,832 ratings  ·  574 reviews
In his bestselling 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism, Cambridge economist Ha-Joon Chang brilliantly debunked many of the predominant myths of neoclassical economics. Now, in an entertaining and accessible primer, he explains how the global economy actually works—in real-world terms. Writing with irreverent wit, a deep knowledge of history, and a disregard for ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published August 26th 2014 by Bloomsbury Press (first published May 1st 2014)
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Daniel Mcbrearty What do you mean by "economic order"? In another book (23 things) he specifically identifies as a believer in capitalism as a driver of human progress…moreWhat do you mean by "economic order"? In another book (23 things) he specifically identifies as a believer in capitalism as a driver of human progress - but he is quite critical of the "free-market at all costs" variety (and at odds in that book to point out that it is not the only capitalistic game in town, despite what various politicians have said and done in the last 30 years). So, if you mean "capitalism vs. communism vs. ... " - yes, he is, but with reservations.

If you mean "economic school of thought"- no. He identifies nine of these, but considers that each has its place, depending on the nature of the problem or phenomena to be examined. And he states also that rigidly clinging to one school at the expense of all others is a pretty bad thing.

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Aug 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
This is a really good book. A couple of years ago I decided it would be a good idea to get a better idea about what all the excitement was with this economics stuff. So, I set about reading some books. I also decided that I ought to read some books I was likely to disagree with, to get a better idea of the full spectrum of thought around this topic. Some of the threads under the reviews of the books I read that supported free market economics still occasionally flare up. I’m much more likely to ...more
Mark Lawry
Nov 27, 2014 rated it it was ok
We all have our conversational biases. Mine is a belief in limited government, free trade, and market economies. Chang’s is a belief in a larger state, regulation, and a lack of faith in markets. That’s fine, we can all continually read and learn from each other. However, Chang tries to walk a fine line between being governed by his own biases while yet being continually wrong. There are just too many examples of this in this work. I will name just a couple. He claims “Only Chile did well out o ...more
Simon Wood
Apr 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Ha-joon Changs "Economics: The User's Guide" is the first title in the newly resurrected Pelican imprint. Chang himself is best described as a heterodox economist, firmly outside the mainstream where neoclassical economics (not to mention neoliberalism) is the reigning creed. But given the multiple failings of orthodox economics the heterodox Chang with his cheerful style, wide learning and a clear and concise authorial voice make him the ideal candidate fo
I revisit this every few years as an accessible refresher; always engaging, real world ECON 101 to reference and critique.

The Good:
--A worthy State Capitalist reformer (with specialty in Development Economics) to engage with, it is fascinating to see how Chang organizes "Economics" for a wider public audience.
--This User's Guide on how to think (as opposed to what to think) about Economics has some sound principles:
1) Political Economy: Economics cannot be a science as the issues it addresses
I really wanted to like this, but I felt like looking at economics this way was more disjointed than helpful. Instead of presenting a textbook approach to economics, Ha-Joon Chang tackles it more conversationally. After digging into the history of economic thought he explores a variety of current events and shows their ties to economics. Readers may take away a greater appreciation for what economics can tell us, but they probably won't get an understanding of how to "do" economics. ...more
Maru Kun
...when faced with an economic argument, you must ask the age-old question 'Cui bono?' - Who benefits?...

Or in other words, "follow the money".

So says Ha-Joon Chang in the epilogue to this excellent introduction to economics which shows how economic questions cannot be separated from political questions and which helps explain how politicians hide behind smokescreens of economic theory and economic jargon to advance policies that favour particular interest groups - more often than not the rich
Katia N
Jan 16, 2018 rated it liked it

Ha-Joon Chang is the economist from Cambridge. He broadly specialises in the field of development economics, but famous for his books “23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism.”  (I have not read that book).

I picked up “the Manual” with the idea of refreshing my knowledge of basic economics. For this purpose, I think, the book is not the best source, but I found a few very interesting and useful parts and ideas in the book nevertheless.

He splits the book in two parts. It is the secon
howl of minerva
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The second of these Pelican Introductions that I've read. They seem to nicely split the difference between Oxford UP's Very Short Introductions (great but obviously only toe-dipping) and heftier academic texts.

Chang provides a broad overview of different schools of economic thought and argues sensibly that economics should not be considered an empirical science but a social and political one. This should be obvious but it's not. Dominant ideologies love to appropriate the mantle of science. Tha
Sep 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: The people fearing economics
Irresistable, likeable introductory book to Economics. I can say that as being a economics student,have struggled quite a bit with the lame,dry, scientific, imaginary diagram prone idealistic neoclassical way of learning. The subject was also taught very very mechanically as a means to maximize our grades and careers.

The first thing the writer does is to break the ' hoax of being a science to be known only by specialist'. You don't need to be a genius to know what people do, why the price keeps
Jan 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ha-joon-chang
This is a brilliant book that dismantles the current fetishism that tries to turn economics--a study of human behavior and its consequences with all the uncertainty and rough edges that any investigation of people and the way they act must contain--into a materialistic science like physics or chemistry with the same rigor and exactitude. The basic assumptions of classical, neo-classical, neo-liberal and most economic thought are based on some core principles which, when looked at apart from the ...more
Ed Erwin
Feb 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, history
Pretty darn good. Dry in places, but that is probably inevitable.

I suppose the main take-away is "Economics is a political argument. It is not – and can never be – a science; there are no objective truths in economics that can be established independently of political, and frequently moral, judgements."

Whenever some politician says "There is no alternative," they are wrong. Looking at the world from one framework there may be only one right option. But there are multiple frameworks, and none of
Dr. Tobias Christian Fischer
Aug 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
A classic to read to understand economics by hard. It’s not that simple written but it’s a book that should be used in courses.
Jun 03, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fic, reference
This book serves well as an introduction to Economics and its different schools of thought. This is a welcoming effort since underlying assumptions are not so often spelled out clearly and examined. Admittedly, this is only an introduction and thus the examination is brief (to my taste), yet it would be a very useful one for people not in the field, baffled by the seemingly too complex economic issues, yet who wish to know more.

This is somewhat similar to Chang's other books in the author's crit
Oct 23, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: economics
I started reading this book thinking that it provided an unconventional view on how the economy works. The book doesn't do that. The author portends that he's about to give you an introduction to economics, or to teach you how to think critically about economics. He doesn't do either, or at least not well. This book is a push-back against the neo-liberal, free-market, "right-wing" ideology that dominates the economics establishment, thinly disguised as a guide to the macroeconomy. I don't mind t ...more
Mar 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
I have found a new favorite author. Chang, an economist at Cambridge University, has written a reader-friendly guide that is sensible and fairly comprehensive. He is convinced that anyone who makes some effort can understand the basic principles of economics, and such knowledge is required for anyone who hopes to have some impact on decisions regarding our local, national, and global societies. In other words, all of us. He immediately admits that, contrary to the claims of many orthodox economi ...more
Otto Lehto
Feb 25, 2015 rated it liked it
A decent overview of the subject of economics, written by the "maverick" Cambridge economist Ha-Joon Chang, whose books have challenged the status quo in a witty way. This book, however, is a bit flimsier. It doesn't really know what it wants to be: an introduction to the layman, or a critical commentary on the present state of the science? Therefore, it ends up being a bit of both.

It is full of good advice: "the willingness to challenge professonal economists and other experts should be the fou
Luke McCarthy
Jul 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very readable and very accessible run-down of some basic ECON 101 concepts, from popular schools of thought to the function of banks, stocks and trade. Chang's writing is concise, and his ability to articulate economics in relation to the 'real-world' is greatly appreciated (I even enjoyed the lame but endearing pop-culture references sprinkled throughout).
The faith here in a kind of regulated, 'tamed' capitalism makes some of the solutions he poses less radical than I'd like, and the discussio
Tammam Aloudat
Who reads a book about economics on a holiday? I did and I have enjoyed every part of it immensely. Chang makes his book entertaining as one would expect from a novel. This is not to say that this is not the serious work of economy, it just address is a different audience. Those of us who aren't versed in the science and art of economics but still want to learn about it so to navigate our world.

I have always struggled to understand what economics are about and I hope the world of finance works.
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
A concise and sometimes witty overview. Chang's leftist tendency is apparent mostly by contrast to the conservatism running rampant in the world today, an attitude which dismisses the economic success of a county like Norway out-of-hand because it isn't based purely on market-based neoclassical economics. In other words, not American. Because I am an American with an American education and consume American news, I was a little surprised by Chang's holistic approach. Economics considers more than ...more
Sep 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memorable
I have been going through a lot of books of social sciences, natural sciences and humanities recently. Ha-Joon is one of the rare Economist to be truly honest with what is Economics is about; an important social science related to politics, but not pure science.

The current Pseudo-scientific Economic discourses, tend to discredit our political leaders, making us think that only modern scientific Economics is capable of helping us build a fair and balanced impartial society.

The reality is that the
Aug 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
After 15 years of my graduation in economics i have never read a single book on "History of Economic Thought"
I just wanted to brush up my existing knowledge in History of Economics it turned out really good , since in the syllabus which i were thought ...i guess it covered only the thoughts till Milton Friedman and the only crisis which it explains was "Great Depression" no idea whether same has been revised or not because universities in our country are notorious in following age old syllabus..
Jun 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
After overdosing on Poulantzas it was very good to reconnect with a book that is actually about something. Very useful intro on the different schools of economic thought and the general parameters of a national economy. Chang is not a marxist himself, but one wonderful specific contribution is his debunking of the international free market as 1) a playing field that tends towards equilibrium or 2) an engine a country can simply hook itself up to to get rich. Not everything is fleshed out equally ...more
Apr 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I received the book through Goodreads First Reads.

Ha-joon Changs "Economics: The User's Guide" is very interesting and a good book it is also very understandable for people like me who are not very familiar with economics After this book, everything will look different.
My recommendation
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely marvellous overview of where the 'science' of economics is now at - what are the different schools of thoughts, what are the terms, numbers, and statistics we use to measure economics and compare them, what are the drawbacks of each measurement and what are we missing out on, how do we measure inequality and how does that work, it's a very-well written introduction to economics.

Economics is a political argument. It is not – and can never be – a science; there are no objective truths i
Andrew Breslin
Feb 20, 2020 rated it liked it
If I could sum up the entire book with one sentence (and I can and will) it’s this:

Economics is not really a science, like physics, but is rather an extension of a personal philosophy, an expression of an opinion or preference, like preferring vanilla over chocolate.

Chang stresses that anyone is entitled to such opinions about economics, not just economists, and that non-economists should not be bullied into intellectual submission by their more credentialed disputants. And the opinion of this
Jan 31, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindled
High four. As a primer to economics, of what it is, and what it isn't, why it's important, the idea of a user guide is great. I don’t recall any economic textbooks I read but I wish they started with this. Chang paints a nuanced, considered, multi-dimensional view while trying to make it all approachable, at times, just serving as a friendly glossary to complex acronyms and cliff notes to a multilayered theoretical framework. Then the sources listed are varied, detailed, and interconnected enoug ...more
Alexander Barnstone
Jul 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Ha - Joon Chang provides an easy to read exploration of many facets of the field of economics. The book gives the reader a basic coverage a wide range of topics including the history or capitalism, the dimensions of international trade, the way we view production, the different schools of economic thought, and the relationship between politics and economics. The book is extraordinarily useful in that with each overview it provides further readings the reader can choose to pursue if they desire - ...more
Titus Hjelm
Feb 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant, accessible introduction. I picked this up as an antidote to Sowell's dreadful Basic Economics, and was not disappointed. Chang takes a healthy attitude towards the Neoclassical orthodoxy and shows how we can--and should--think about the economy differently from The Economist magazine and its cheerleaders. The focus is on macroeconomics, which is how it should be, but I would have perhaps liked to see more detailed refutations of the neoliberal micro ideas, or examples of how, for ex ...more
A.K. Kulshreshth
Jan 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A engaging work that constantly surprised and educated me. Chang explains differing points of view, acknowledges the failures of economists, admits that the Nobel Prize in economics was started...erm... a bit later than in the other disciplines and makes it a point to challenge a lot of conventional wisdom. It is an important message that economics is too important to be left to "professional" economists.

I especially liked the wide-ranging references: from Wodehouse to Borgen, and an interesting
Garret Giblin
Jul 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very accessible and well-written introduction to a lot of key concepts and the various different schools of thought that exist. I admire Chang's approach and his attempt to help democratise economics and not leave the subject entirely to professional economists who have become very narrow-minded in his view. He also stresses the importance of seeing economics as a political or ethical argument and never as a science ...more
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Ha-Joon Chang teaches economics at Cambridge University. His book 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism was a no.1 bestseller and was called by the Observer 'a witty and timely debunking of some of the biggest myths surrounding the global economy.' He is a popular columnist at the Guardian, and a vocal critic of the failures of our economic system. ...more

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“Economics is a political argument. It is not – and can never be – a science; there are no objective truths in economics that can be established independently of political, and frequently moral, judgements. Therefore, when faced with an economic argument, you must ask the age-old question ‘Cui bono?’ (Who benefits?), first made famous by the Roman statesman and orator Marcus Tullius Cicero.” 13 likes
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