Post-Autistic Economics (PAE) is an emerging economics movement which started in France among a group of economics students’ declaration. Basically, this movement criticizes that current economics education is only supported by Neoclassical and Neoliberal doctrines; mathematics became an aim instead of being a tool for this science. Moreover, they also criticize that the results and outcomes of this current science of economics are not able to provide solutions for today’s economical problems. The name of the movement also fits to the situation they criticize. They want to change current economics doctrine which is carrying the symptoms of autism by having minimum connection with the real world. Thus, they named themselves as post-autistic movement. Moreover, in 2008 the Post-Autistic Economics Movement changed its name to Real-World Economics Review.

Brief History of Post-Autistic Economics

Firstly, I believe that it is important to mention, that it is hard to draw a framework for this topic because it is quite broad. That’s why here I will try to summarize the history behind it very briefly. In 1960s neo-classical economists have managed to establish superiority among other non-neoclassical economists and even blocked the employment of them in universities’ economics departments to deny them opportunities to publish in professional journals1. By time, neo-classical economists started to formalize their theory which is going away from understanding economic reality. In my opinion in this point, neo-classical doctrine has failed to tackle current problems such as poverty, the gap between poor and rich, environment etc. due to considering itself as positive science. They even claim that such problems should be tackled by other social sciences such as sociology and philosophy.

Then, due to this situation, in June 2000 a group of economics students in Paris started to raise their voice and published a declaration in order to improve mainstream economics doctrine. After the declaration and the petition which was signed by almost every French economics student; their voice has started to be heard by media. Especially, some major newspapers and magazines gave place to this movement on their first page. Finally, the French government took action and the Minister of Education set up a high-level commission to investigate students’ complaints.

After France, thanks to the internet, this movement was heard all around the world. Then, in June 2001, exactly one year after the French students’ petition was initiated, 27 PhD candidates at Cambridge University launched their own proposal with a title ‘Opening up Economics’. In August 2001, economics students from the Kansas City, USA, followed the movement and released a letter in order to call other economics departments to reform the economics education. Later on, in March 2003 economics students at Harvard University also launched their own petition. Thus, in a short time this movement has gained lots of supporter.


What Do They Aim – What Do They Criticize?

In order to understand what post-autistic economics movement aims, let’s first look at the demands of the French students:2

  1. We wish to escape from imaginary worlds!
  2. We oppose the uncontrolled use of mathematics!
  3. We are for a pluralism of approaches in economics!
  4. Call to teachers: wake up before it is too late!

So basically, they claim that they are against the current economics doctrine which shows homo economicus as only ‘producers and consumers’. They expect from the science of economics to be based on tangible realities not intangible concepts. According to their ideology, science of economics should develop as social doctrine, so it is important and necessary to be aware of the connection of economics and people in every stage. One of their the most important argument is, that science of economics is different from natural sciences so it cannot be confined to the strict determinism of natural sciences. Moreover, related to this difference, mathematics and econometric dimensions in science of economics should stay as tool, not the objective of it. Also the Open Letter of students from Kansas City has similar proposals; such as: 1. A broader conception of human behavior, 2. Recognition of culture, 3. Consideration of history, 4. A new theory of knowledge, 5. Empirical grounding, 6. Expanded methods, 7. Interdisciplinary dialogue.3

To sum up, this movement also offers some solutions related to what they are criticizing in mainstream economics:

  • As it has been mentioned few times, they claim that using a lot of mathematics, equations etc. will lead some explanation problems for the students especially in the microeconomics area
  • Economics should care as well about social circumstances especially about environment and pollution
  • Homo economicus should not be seen as only ‘production factor’; inequality, poverty etc. also should be a focus of science of economics.
  • Science of economics should coordinate with other social sciences such as sociology, history and anthropology.


There is no doubt that post-autistic economics movement brought wide perspective to the neo-classical economics doctrine. In addition, it is important to mention that this movement does not try to change the mainstream economic ideology and also does not try to take a place of it. The Post-Autistic economics movement has the idea that neo-classical economics is not enough to tackle current problems or neo-classical economists ignore these problems; so this movement wants to bring new solutions and more coordination between science of economics and other sciences in order to have a more efficient economic doctrine. Especially after the 2008 global economic crisis, it is one more time seen that neo-classical doctrine lost its functionality because homo economicus can also behave rational and market system without governmental interventions is tend to fail so the proposals of post-autistic economics movement are worth to consider in order to have an alternative perspective to mainstream economics. As an end, if you are interested in how the real-world economics is tackling the problems, you can reach their blog here: .



1 Post-Autistic Economics Network

2 Post-Autistic Economics Network

3 Post-Autistic Economics Network


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