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A Decade in Political Economy

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|Peter Boettke| As we left the 20th century and entered into the 21st century, political economy experienced a full renaissance within the broader disciplines of economics, political science, sociology and history.  No longer did the term convey a secret code for Marxism, nor did it signal a heterodox concern with institutions and history.  The collapse of communism and the transition period, as well as lingering problems with developing economies, led the mainstream of social science to take an institutional turn.  We can quibble about how this turn was conducted and the implications various scholars took from this move, but it would be silly to say that institutions continued to be ignored or that historical research continued to be discounted.  Nope the last 2 decades have been

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As we left the 20th century and entered into the 21st century, political economy experienced a full renaissance within the broader disciplines of economics, political science, sociology and history.  No longer did the term convey a secret code for Marxism, nor did it signal a heterodox concern with institutions and history.  The collapse of communism and the transition period, as well as lingering problems with developing economies, led the mainstream of social science to take an institutional turn.  We can quibble about how this turn was conducted and the implications various scholars took from this move, but it would be silly to say that institutions continued to be ignored or that historical research continued to be discounted.  Nope the last 2 decades have been good for researchers interested in political, legal and social institutions, and in conducting historical research informed by social science.

I tried to come up with books since 2010 that I think communicate important lessons to be learned, or challenges that must be grappled with.  Let me go by year. (Important note: I am not listing the books by Deirdre McCloskey as I will discuss those in another post, but no list of political economy books in the 2000s should be discussed without due consideration of her brilliant trilogy)

Raghuram Rajan, Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy. Princeton University Press.

(nominating 2)

Timothy Besley and Torsten Persson, Pillars of Prosperity. Princeton University Press.

See this discussion on the political economy of development in fragile and weak states.

Edward Glaeser, The Triumph of the City. Penguin.

Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, Why Nations Fail. Penguin.

Edmund Phelps, Mass Flourishing. Princeton University Press.

Charles W. Calomiris and Stephen Haber, Fragile By Design. Princeton University Press.

William Easterly, Tyranny of Experts. Basic Books.

Thomas Piketty, Capital in the 21st Century. Harvard University Press.

George Akerlof and Robert Shiller, Phishing for Phools. Princeton University Press.

Robert Gordon, The Rise and Fall of American Growth. Princeton University Press.

Joel Mokyr, A Cultural of Growth. Princeton University Press.

Douglas Irwin, Clashing over Commerce. University of Chicago Press.

Eric Posner and Glen Weyl, Radical Markets. Princeton University Press.

Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, The Narrow Corridor. Penguin.

I am sure to be missing some important works, such as Ragu Rajan's The Third Pillar (Penguin, 2019), which I also believe should be on reading list of every student of political economy, as well as intellectual history works in political economy, such as Eric Schliesser's Adam Smith: Systematic Philosopher and Public Thinker (Oxford, 2017) and many others. But I think if you read those listed, you will get a good sense of the current conversation in the field.

Peter Boettke
Peter Joseph Boettke (January 3, 1960) is an American economist of the Austrian School. He is currently a University Professor of Economics and Philosophy at George Mason University; the BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism, Vice President for Research, and Director of the F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center at GMU.

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