The incoherent emperor: a heterodox critique of neoclassical microeconomic theory

Lee, Frederic S. and Keen, Steve (2004) The incoherent emperor: a heterodox critique of neoclassical microeconomic theory. Review of Social Economy, 62(2), pp. 169-199. ISSN (print) 0034-6764


It is somewhat common for heterodox economists to come to the defense of neoclassical microeconomic theory. This is due to many reasons, but perhaps the commonest one is ignorance. It seems that most heterodox economists are not aware of the many critiques or that as a collective they completely undermine neoclassical theory. The objective of the article is to dispel ignorance by using the existing criticisms to delineate a systematic critique of the core components of neoclassical microeconomic theory: the supply and demand explanation of the price mechanism and its application to competitive markets. The critique starts by examining the choices, preferences, utility functions, and demand curves, followed by examining production, costs, factor input demand functions and partial equilibrium, and ending with perfect competition and the supply curve. In the conclusion, the implications of the results will be extended to the firm and imperfectly competitive markets, and then the question whether general equilibrium theory or game theory can save neoclassical microeconomic theory.

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