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