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Foundations of Economics: A Beginner's Companion

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  93 ratings  ·  8 reviews

Foundations of Economics breathes life into the discipline by linking key economic concepts with wider debates and issues. By bringing to light delightful mind-teasers, philosophical questions and intriguing politics in mainstream economics, it promises to enliven an otherwise dry course whilst inspiring students to do well.
The book covers all the main economic concepts an

Hardcover, 424 pages
Published June 18th 1998 by Routledge (first published 1998)
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Routledge Economics
Sep 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
An expert introduction to economics that blows the huge textbooks by Sloman and Mankiw into orbit if you are interested in really knowing what the subject is all about. For a non-English native, albeit one who has spent a fair bit of time living in Australia, Varoufakis has a superb turn of phrase and is in a small band of economists - Philip Mirowski, Deirdre McCloskey, Geoff Hodgson, Jason Potts are others - who can actually claim distinction as a writer. The book concentrates on theory and co ...more
Dec 31, 2014 rated it liked it
Varoufakis set himself a very difficult task here, and his success is uneven. His goal is to provide an exposition and history of the basic concepts of neoclassical economics, and a criticism of them as well. For the most part, his exposition is excellent, and readers looking for an introductory critical perspective on neoclassical economics would do well to begin here (it is a bit more readable than Steve Keen's Debunking Economics, for example). However, the criticisms he provides, couched at ...more
Malek Atia
Aug 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics, textbooks
I was so skeptical when I started studying micro economics this book kinda pushed my skepticism further,I liked this book but i wonder why the author didn’t mention behavioral economics.
Feb 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful book. It does for the theoretical foundations of economics what Zinn did for US history.
"The purpose of studying economics is to learn how not to be deceived by economists." ― Joan Robinson, Basel Lecture, 1969

The above quote can be pretty much thought of as Varoufakis's mission statement here. If economics as an academic discipline makes you think of complex mathematical equations and endless graphs like supply and demand curves, you've been haunted by a spectre. The spectre of neoclassical economics—a narrow conception of economics that has, not without political and ideological
Great book. On of a few examples that I know of trying to disprove a theory you don't like without trying to distort it or ridicule it or concentrate on petty details.
Atlas Can
Feb 06, 2015 rated it it was ok
Economics, not even once.
Jan 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very thoughtful critique of mainstream economics.
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Let me begin with a confession: I am a Professor of Economics who has never really trained as an economist. While I may have a PhD in Economics, I do not believe I have ever attended more than a few lectures on economics! But let's take things one at a time.

I was born in Athens back in the mists of 1961. Greece was, at the time, struggling to shed the post-civil war veil of totalitar

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“After hovering in the ethereal world of mathematics and geometry, economics was forced to crash-land and take its place in the real world of political debate. Do economists wish to pursue the Good Society in the spirit of the social contract tradition which started some time in ancient Greece, reasserted itself in Europe with J.-J.Rousseau and found its apotheosis in John Rawls? Or do they wish for a social contract which effectively rules the State out as anything other than a provider of order and security—a tradition which began with Thomas Hobbes and culminated in Robert Nozick’s theory? Or, indeed can economists think of something in between?

Thus economics is back into the mire courtesy of Arrow’s third theorem, which dispels any hopes of a Rational Society springing from some form of advanced utility maximisation. Economics can no longer escape the political, philosophical debates which resonate across the humanities—from literature to sociology and from politics to moral philosophy. This is a good thing. At last, economics can become interesting again after a century of continuous pedantry.”
“In the meantime, it is useful to end this chapter by pondering a paradox. On the one hand, as already noted, economics is replete with eulogies to freedom (particularly of the market). However, on the other hand, the type of freedom that economics textbooks talk about is compatible with the science fiction image of rows and rows of persons attached to a pleasure machine which bombards them with utility (or, to be more respectful to ordinal utility, which keeps them at the very top of their preferences ordering). Less apocalyptically, it is consistent with a society in which individuals’ ideals have been reduced to purchasing commodities in gigantic shopping complexes guided totally by cravings manufactured in elaborate marketing clinics. Perhaps the most helpful conclusion to draw from all this is that the economic textbook’s model of rational choice is the culmination of the logic unleashed on the world by the emergence and domination of market societies (see Chapter 1 again). One question is worth keeping in mind when immersed in that logic: is a happy slave (a slave of feudal masters or, today, of the advertisers) capable of being free (whatever that person’s utility level)?

So, if freedom is more than just desire-fulfilment what does it mean to be free? No one has the definitive answer but here is a suggestion: individual freedom may be the capacity to act freely, not only in order to satisfy the preferences that are there already (the utility machine can do this admirably), but in order to create new and better preferences—in order to improve one’s self. We can do this only if we care about more than the indulgence of our current desires.”
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