Given the continuation of the UCU strike action, which we support, the two reminding lectures (6th and 13th of March) of Paper 0 are cancelled. We will do all we can to re-schedule these talks at the beginning of next academic year.



This is a two-part paper that offers an introduction to various selected topics that have been neglected by neoclassical economics.


The paper aims to increase students’ awareness of alternative approaches to theorising about economic activities. The overarching objectives of this paper are to promote pluralism in the teaching of economics and to develop students’ capacities to think critically.


All students who attend 50% or more of the lectures will receive a diploma at the end of the course.

Part I: Michaelmas 2017


Every Tuesday during term 1-2 PM

Lecture Theatre 1, Lecture Block, Sidgwick Site, Cambridge CB3 9DA


10th of October

Introductory Session


17th of October

Title: Systems Theory: a step towards development economics

Lecturer: Gustavo Nicolas Paez, Faculty of Economics

Abstract: Why are economists obsessed with equilibrium? In the news, in the political speeches, and in any other science, people speak of evolution: how individuals organize themselves and adapt to a constantly changing society. This lecture will discuss all that we lost when we neglect that the world is dynamic, as well as the way in which the pioneer researchers in development incorporated system thinking in their analysis in order to cope with the developing world they were observing.


24th of October

Title: Institutions and economic development: Is it really all about private property rights?

Lecturer: Sam van Noort, Centre of Development Studies

Abstract: Private property rights security is currently seen as central to explaining cross-country differences in economic development. Variation in private property rights security itself is perceived to be best explained by differences in the degree to which the political system provides checks-and-balances on executive state power. In this lecture we will reassess the existing evidence for these two hypotheses and conclude that the current mainstream development literature claims substantially more than the underlying evidence can sustain.


31st of October

Title: Is there a case for industrial policy in XXI century?

Lecturer: Kiryl Zach, Centre of Development Studies

Abstract: In this lecture I will, firstly, generally outline the debate about the usefulness of industrial policy in the age of globalization, highlighting some of the key neoclassical arguments against it. Secondly, I will present the reasons why some of its proponents think that industrial policy is as relevant as ever. I will also discuss why some economists think that it becomes increasingly needed to deal with the range of key political economy struggles of the XXI century, from middle income traps to a response to climate change.


7th of November

Title: Beyond Divestment: How to develop a just, green economy for the 21st century

Lecturer: Ellen Quigley, Faculty of Education

Abstract: Finance works in mysterious ways, and even economists often do not understand how the system works. This lecture will include an overview of the financial system and its constituent parts; a critique of current approaches to “socially responsible” or “ethical” investment; and a series of proposals (asset class by asset class) for transforming the economy into a fairer, greener version of itself.


14th of November

Title: Understanding economics through social relationships

Lecturer: Liran Morav, Department of Sociology

Neoclassical economics posits that economic actions is driven by decision undertaken by self-interested actors making instrumentally-rational calculations for the purpose of maximising individual economic returns. In actuality, transactions between economic actors are “socially embedded”: they are guided by the norms, values and expectations that underpin actor’ relationships with each other.   The social embeddedness of economic action explains phenomena such as corruption, discriminatory hiring and “ethnic economies”, among other things. Accordingly, this lecture will introduce different ways of understanding the role and impact of social relationships on actors’ economic decisions.


21st of November

Title: Is there a link between income inequality and technological innovation? The case of the Internet of Things.

Lecturer: Nicolas Valenzuela-Levi, Department of Land Economy

Technological innovation and income inequality are two of the most topical issues in today’s development economics discussions. However, are they linked? Using the case of the Internet of Things, we will discuss both demand and supply driven innovations in order to illustrate technology adoption and diffusion, and to account for the link between income inequality and innovation. As we will see, many mainstream discourses and economic theories neglect an important part of the kind of innovations that are shaping an increasingly interconnected world.


28th of November

Title: What’s the role of the firm in building a modern knowledge economy?

Lecturer: Gracelin Baskaran, Centre of Development Studies

Neoclassical economics often neglects the role of the firm in transitioning an economy from extractives and low-level manufacturing to knowledge-intensive industries. However, this lecture will show that firms play a crucial role in transitioning an economy, by providing training, support, promotion opportunities, and knowledge sharing. Amongst others, it will examine the cases of Japan, Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom.


Part II: Lent 2018

Every Tuesday during term 1-2 PM

Lecture Theatre 1, Lecture Block, Sidgwick Site, Cambridge CB3 9DA


23rd of January

Elites in an Unequal World

Alicia Krozer, Centre of Development Studies

Abstract: Elites are an important feature of (contemporary) society, and recently evoking concepts like “the 1%” seems almost sufficient as explanatory variable in inequality research. But who are these elites, and how do they perceive of inequality? Do they care about “the rest” of society? Where do they see themselves compared to that rest? Using Mexican elites as an example, this talk will challenge common assumptions about “the elite” as either ultimate saviour for the economy, or corrupted obstacle to a better society.


30th of January

Everyday Neoliberalism: Ethnography of the Practice of Economics

Asiya Islam, Department of Sociology

Abstract: While traditional economics studies the consequences of adoption of neoliberal policies through data on gross domestic product, per capita income, and at times through levels of education and wellbeing, how do we study the lived experiences of neoliberalism? In this lecture, I make links between anthropology, sociology, and economics to demonstrate how neoliberalism can not only be studied through qualitative, specifically ethnographic methods, but also how indeed neoliberalism can be better understood through narratives of everyday living. As such, the lecture will also pay attention to the unequal effects of neoliberalism on different social groups – women, youth, working classes, and so on. In this crossover of method and theory, I will engage students with examples from my own fieldwork in Delhi, India, where I was recently researching the lives of young women in service employment.


6th of February

Natural resources and Development: Beyond the Resource Curse

Amir Lebdioui, Centre of Development Studies

Abstract: How can countries avoid the so-called resource curse and harness natural resources for economic development? The mainstream economics literature has emphasized government failures, fiscal stabilization and the idea of letting the market choose sectors for diversification of resource-dependent economies, but has also ignored the role of market failures in resource based economies and the important role of state interventions in explaining past successful development experiences. This lecture will discuss how the discourse of mainstream economics on natural resource management has neglected the structural economic transformation agenda and how States can help promote resource based development.


13th of February

Role of Managers in Economic Development: A Review of The Visible Hand

Rekha Bhangaonkar, Centre of Development Studies

Abstract: A manager is recognised as having an independent objective, one that is different from that of the owner in the neoclassical construct. The Visible Hand by Alfred Chandler brings the managerial class to the limelight and provides evidence for visible hand of management superseding the invisible hand of market coordination. This lecture will present a summary and a critical review of this seminal book.


20th of February

Can we estimate the economic consequences of climate change?

Lydia Prieg, Department of Land Economy

Abstract: Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) are cross-disciplinary tools that explore how economic activity interacts with the environment and vice versa. They are frequently used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other academics and policy makers to assess the economic consequences of climate change or emissions abatement, with damage functions being used to translate environmental changes into economic costs or benefits. For higher temperature change scenarios, however, there are limited studies upon which to base IAM damage functions. The latter can thus become subjective and uncertain. The models are also criticised for ignoring or underestimating climate catastrophes. Finally, values embedded in the models concerning the relative importance of current and future generations, can mean that large future economic costs are heavily discounted. This lecture will explore how well existing IAMs can inform climate change policy. Do these models add value, or do they merely create an illusion of knowledge and certainty?


27th of February

Scarcity in Abundance

Jaime Royo, Centre of Development Studies

Much of the critique to neoclassical economics is centred around reductive models of rational behaviour. There is another critical stylised fact that has attracted some but considerably less attention: the megalomaniac individual. Lord Lionel C. Robbins provided perhaps the most influential definition of (neo-classical) economics. He described it as “the study of social behaviour guiding in the allocation of scarce resources to meet the unlimited needs and desires of the individual members of a given society”. The fact that needs and desires are uncontentious with being ‘unlimited’ discards a priori legitimate questions over ‘why?’ goods are actually scarce. In some cases, there might be good reasons for scarcity (i.e. unsurmountable technical or environmental challenges). In others, however, they are the result of complex dynamics and power relations. Robbins definition disregarded the political economy of production and allocation providing a veil over contrived (or artificial) forms of scarcity. This, I shall argue, is instrumental for rent-seeking among other processes of capital accumulation. As a response to Robbin’s definition of economics, I shall provide an account of three hundred years of political economy on alternative scarcity principles from Locke to Shiller involving major economists and from different political ideologies. This will be the basis for reclaiming a more nuanced understanding of human-induced scarcity as well as of needs and wants. Their conceptualisation plays a key role in economic transformations such as financialisation.


6th of March

Intellectual Property Rights and the Chicago School of Economics: a path towards centralisation and control

Felipe Figueroa Zimmermann, Sociology Department University of Warwick

Abstract: Property rights are a key element of economic arrangements. In a context in which knowledge has become one of the most valuable resources, Intellectual Property Rights are of the upmost importance. Despite this fact, there is little discussion in mainstream economics about the theoretical assumptions underlying the concept of property rights. The paper will (i) review the history of how the bundle theory of rights became the dominant way of understanding property rights via its acritical adoption by the Chicago School of Economics and (ii) show how this theoretical framework leads to increasingly expanding Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs). Finally, it will show (iii) how, as IPRs expand, networks must be increasingly regulated to enforce these rights, thus making them more centralised and controlled.


13th of March

Closing Lecture: Feminist Economics

Special guest: Dr. Victoria Bateman, Faculty of Economics

What can economics learn from feminism? This lecture will provide some suggestions, pointing to implicit gender biases within economic theory, and the neglect of the role of women in our perceptions of how the West grew rich. It will outline what feminist economics has to offer in terms of addressing the big economic challenges of our time, both within the UK and internationally.