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Economics in the 21st Century

date Date: January 1, 2017
date Author(s): Robert Chernomas, Ian Hudson
date Affiliation: University of Manitoba
Economics has the awkward distinction of being both the most influential and most reviled of the social sciences. The economic crisis that started in 2008 does not appear to have caused the discipline’s influence to wane, but it has expanded the number of its critics. Broadly speaking, the growing criticism from outside (and occasionally inside) economics centered on how the discipline lacked realism and used technique as an end in itself, instead of engaging with concrete economic realities and accepting a pluralism of approaches adapted to the complexity of economic problems. A fundamental component of the lack of realism is the lack of attention by the mainstream of the discipline to inquire about the economic influence of the most powerful people, institutions and corporations that dominate the decision making of the 21st century. This paper explores whether this criticism should be applied to the work of the new generation of economic superstars, who have established significant influence both inside and outside the discipline. The John Bates Clark (JBC) medal is given to the American economist under forty “judged to have made the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge,” and is generally considered the second most prestigious in the profession (after the Nobel Prize, which it sometimes foreshadows). We will examine the work of those that have won the award from 2001 to 2013. The winners of the JBC are significant because they represent the future of economics as defined by the discipline itself.

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