26 March 2012

The Delusions of Economics: The Misguided Certainties of a Hazardous Science

In “The Delusions of Economics”, Gilbert Rist presents a radical critique of neoclassical economics from a social and historical perspective

Zed Book | March 2012

24 November 2011


ISBN: 9781848139220
224 pages
216mm x 138mm


Rather than enter into existing debates between different orthodoxies, Rist instead explores the circumstances that prevailed when economics was 'invented', and the resultant biases that helped forge the construction of economics as a 'science'. In doing so, Rist demonstrates how these various presuppositions are either obsolete or just plain wrong, and that traditional economics is largely based on irrational convictions that are difficult to debunk due to their 'religious' nature. As a result, we are prevented from properly understanding the world around us and dealing with the financial, environmental, and climatic crises that lie ahead.

Provocative and original, this essential book provides incontrovertible proof that the construction of a new economic paradigm - pluralistic, ecologically compatible, grounded in reality - has now become a necessity.


'This is a work of sustained blasphemy. It lays bare the absurd assumptions of that lethal religion called 'mainstream economics'. Rist's book undermines the faith at the deepest level. True believers beware!' - Edward Fullbrook, Editor of Real-World Economics Review

'Rist has put before us a very powerful critique of economics. ... This book is a great contribution to getting beyond the contemporary pseudo-religion of economics and warrants the widest audience and discussion.' - Trent Schroyer, Ramapo College of New Jersey

'Drawing on a wealth of historical and anthropological evidence, Professor Rist brilliantly explains how mainstream economic doctrines - including the latest Green Economy initiative - rest on quasi-religious beliefs and assumptions that are deeply committed to the further commodification of social relations and nature. In this remarkable book, Gilbert Rist invites us to think outside the box and collectively invent radically different forms of economic exchange and ways of 'living well together'. The intellectual audacity of this book will no doubt fire peoples' social imagination: a fundamentally new economic paradigm is indeed possible and can be consciously invented by citizens. Gilbert Rist makes it also abundantly clear that human dignity, social justice, equity, cultural diversity, and ecological survival on Earth now depend on such a transformation.' - Dr Michel Pimbert, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)

'A fine, extensive and accessible synthesis, which for that reason one can only hope will be widely read.' - Le Portail francophone des sciences sociales

'The book dispels the basic myths of economics and cleverly brings the reader to glimpse a new paradigm.' - Aziz Fall, Relations, Montréal 'With his new way of thinking of society, Rist makes us relive - from a different angle and in a different age - what Marx achieved in the 'Critique of Political Economy' with his ethnological focus on society' - Aziz Fall, Relations, Montréal

'Gilbert Rist proposes a different way of conceiving of the economy and therefore society' – L'Ecologiste

'The work remains a clear and useful antidote to mainstream economic thinking.' - Gilles Raveaud, Alternatives économiques

Table of Contents

1. Economics between History and Anthropology
2. A Failed Scientific Ambition
3. Homo Oeconomicus: A Dangerous Phantom
4. Exchange
5. The Fairy Tale of Scarcity
6. Utility and Futility
7. Equilibrium
8. The Growth Obsession
9. Growth Objection
10. Economic 'Science' as Religion
11. Towards a New Paradigm?

About the Author:

Gilbert Rist is professor emeritus at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. He first taught at the University of Tunis, became the Director of the Europe-Third World Centre in Geneva and, later on, Senior Researcher on a United Nations University Project. Afterwards he joined the Graduate Institute of Development Studies where he taught intercultural relations and social anthropology. His main interest is in an anthropological approach of our contemporary society. He is the author of The History of Development: From Western Origins to Global Faith (Zed Books, London, 3rd edition, 2008)

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