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The Benefits and Disadvantages of a Pluralist Approach to Economics

Updated on December 26, 2017


Economic pluralism implies that a plurality of methodological and theoretical perspectives is important in discussing economic matters. In simple terms, it refers to a diversity of theoretical frameworks. This perspective is considered among the best means by which economics can be used to comprehend the world as it is. Pluralism in economic is also meant to shed new insights regarding different consequences and meanings of various pluralist approaches to the methodology and history of economics. The concept aims to relate economics to the present system. Moreover, it is offers a challenge to the extant mainstream ideas. It also enriches it by integrating it with different and alternative approaches and theories. As an economic paradigm, the mainstream economics have not succeeded in analyzing and conceptualizing economy and thus, need to be substituted by a different paradigm. In essence, pluralism in economics has proved to be an effective approach in conceptualizing the present economy and its dynamics. Pluralism facilitates gaining of greater knowledge which further reinforces the perspectives of economics.


There are several arguments for economic pluralist curricula. Among these is the ontological argument which postulates that no single theory can effectively explain the nature of the world as it is (Holcombe 45). On the other hand, the epistemological perspective claims that there is no single standard existing to adjunct one particular theory as being the best. On his part, Mearman (56) points out that all economic theories are fallible and thus need not be trusted on their entirety. These claims generate an argument on the need for a pluralist approach for a better understanding of economics.

Economic curricular is meant to prepare the students for the actual world. In this respect, it is critical that the curricular ways which inculcates that ways of thoughts which are relevant to the current state in which the world is in. This is essentially what economic pluralism seeks to achieve. For instance, through a pluralist approach, students are thought on the complexity of the world, with the use of existing evidence of this complexity.

In the field of economics curriculum, pluralism significantly raises the awareness level of students in economic matters. This may be in regard to different economic frameworks and theories extant and which are employed in helping to comprehend economic ideals. Furthermore, students will be at better position of understanding the weaknesses and strengths of the various approaches they come across. According to Maier, McGoldrick, and Simkins (55) the new schools incorporated in the economic pluralism concept include feminist economics, Post-Keynesian economics, Austrian economics, Marxian economics, and institutionalism. The focus on neoclassical economics implies that graduate students will not in a position to encounter the materials and information presented by other theories and frameworks. However, pluralism makes this possible.

The central focus in neoclassical economics curriculum is to foster abstract and quantitative thinking skills. Stated differently, students were essentially required to master a specific set of conceptual tools. However, economic pluralism focuses on techniques thus presenting to the students the opportunity of gaining a deeper comprehension of the world in its reality with the economic, political, social relationship (McGoldrick and Simkins 2). This approach also aids in formation of attributes such as discursive reasoning and critical thinking.


The pluralist approach does not embrace or advocate for a specific tradition. Instead, its objectives are to evaluate all conventions put forth by the various theories. In other words, pluralist approach seeks to practice a value free assessment. Mearman states that “despite the criticality of their assessments, the approach is not considered as a universal or standardized form of evaluations” (25). Theories ought to be framed around a universally known standard. In this sense, there need to be a universally accepted methodology which should be regarded as a standard approach to economic evaluations.

Pluralism economics does not have a basis in any theory of truth nor does it make any epistemological claims. Owing to this aspect, philosophers, economic methodologists, scholars will find a hard time and considering this approach a serious position. Maier, McGoldrick, and Simkins (75) points out that with no basis in the theory of truth, it is hard to speak authoritatively concerning such matters as understanding, improvement, understanding of incorrect beliefs, or progress without first of all explaining the kind of developments that are needed. It is practically not possible to talk about progress without first of all conceptualizing the kind of progress required. This is among the most serious criticisms as it pertains to this theory.

Promoting pluralism in the economic curriculum also entails some significant level of costs. Among the associated concerns is the tradeoff between relevancy and rigor, as well as considerations of this new paradigm in the new curriculum. There is also the need to pursue and recognize the degree of institutional, student and faculty commitment that is necessary to facilitate success for a pluralist economic curriculum which is in it, a daunting task. Furthermore, excessive pluralism results into disorientation, bewilderment and cynicism. What is more, the focus on active and interdisciplinary learning approaches could generate a postmodern attitude which is based on semi-truths and insights (Groenewegen 67). What this generally requires is that economists and researchers need to take an active responsibility in finding the best materials through research to formulate an economic curricular that meets the demands of the new approach.


The goal of economic curricular is to prepare students in adequately participating in the economic and social life after they graduate. However, what is considered relevant skill or how the goal of the educational curricular should be achieved has been the face of contention. Nonetheless, this paper has argued that the economic pluralist approach to course pedagogy and content is essential in ensuring that economic students are better prepared to face and deal with the current world. What is more, despite its associated challenges and disadvantages, this approach presents integral components that can help students in not only relating their economic skills with their world, but also learning the better ways of designing practices to achieve desired goals. The pluralist perspective exposes students to multiple paradigms that present relevant content coverage. Furthermore, it encourages the faculty into moving away from lectures and embrace active and practical learning to shape their thinking skills. As for now, the concern should be geared towards making a pluralist approach to economics to be more useful. What this generally implies is that economists and researchers need to take an active responsibility in finding the best materials through research to formulate an economic curricular that meets the demands of the new approach.


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