On the “Nobel” award in Economics

Venktesh Athreya

There is no problem in recognizing that the winners of the “Nobel” prize in Economics are well known scholars in the Economics profession. The Award can be viewed as confirmation of their professional status though such confirmation was by no means necessary.

The other aspect of the matter is that the award of “Nobel” in Economics has always been a strongly ideological exercise. Economists in the dominant neoclassical (“neo-neo classical” in the words of the great economist Joan Robinson) tradition constitute the overwhelming proportion of awardees.

The Decision-making process

The decision making process and ideological biases, both explicit and implicit, make it impossible for “heterodox” economists to be even considered. However, in the interests of appearing inclusive, and thus legitimising the award system, occasionally mildly critical voices, as also seemingly innovative approaches that legitimise preferred policy options, may be chosen for the Award.

It is important not to make too much of the Award as also to separate the recognition of the scholarship of the Awardees from reasonable and strong disagreement with the work for which the Award has been given.

The author, Venktesh Athreya, is an alumnus of IIT Madras and University of Wisconsin, USA

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