chapter  1
13 Pages


ByMichael Bleaney

One of the characteristics-perhaps in retrospect it will be viewed as the chief characteristic-of theoretical economics over the past decade has been the cooling of controversy and a gradual re-establishment of some form of consensus in the profession for the first time since the mid-1960s. This has undoubtedly been a tentative process, for which the Walrasian term tâtonnement springs to mind, but we have only to think back to the apparently irreconcilable gulf between different schools of macroeconomics in the 1970s to recognize how much movement there has been. In 1981 Daniel Bell and Irving Kristol edited a book of twelve essays entitled The Crisis in Economic Theory (Bell and Kristol 1981). Originally a special issue of the magazine Public Interest, this volume attracted some leading names of the economics profession as contributors, and Bell felt able to state in his Introduction that ‘[t]he twelve theorists represented here accept the fact that the consensus on economic theory has been broken’ (Bell and Kristol 1981:xi). Kristol put it rather more strongly in his essay: ‘It is widely conceded that something like a “crisis in economic theory” exists, but there is vehement disagreement about the extent and nature of this crisis’ (Bell and Kristol 1981:201).