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15 - The Return of Depression Economics: Paul Krugman and the Twenty-First-Century Crisis of American Democracy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 December 2022

Richard Bourke
University of Cambridge
Quentin Skinner
Queen Mary University of London
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Paul Krugman is one of the most influential commentators in twenty-first-century America. His authority rests on his status as a Nobel prize-winning economist, but his appeal to millions of American readers derives from his ability to narrate the crises of contemporary American liberalism as dramatic history. By his own account Krugman as a young person was fascinated by the idea of a total social science inspired by the science fiction of Isaac Asimov. As he discovered as a College student in the early 1970s that synthesis of historical and social knowledge does not exist. Krugman became an economist out of disappointment with history. That disappointment was both intellectual – history’s failure to provide succinct causal explanations - and political – history’s tendency towards overdetermined fatalism as opposed to pragmatic simplification. It might be said that in his writings as a public intellectual Krugman has been reaching for the overview that eluded him as a young man. Economics, politics and history mingle freely in his work. This, however, has not led to a stable synthesis. As Krugman has become more deeply engaged in politics, it is the framing assumptions of his economics, the neoclassical synthesis forged at MIT after World War II, that have been put in question.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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