Teaching Open-system Economics

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Please cite the paper as:
Dow, Sheila, (2013), Teaching Open-system Economics, World Economics Association (WEA) Conferences, No. 2 2013, The economics curriculum: towards a radical reformation, 3rd May – 14th June 2013



The different approaches to economics can be understood in terms of whether economics is understood in terms of a closed system or, if an open system, which type of open system. This paper considers what is implied for teaching, when an open-system approach is taken. The problems with open-system material are analysed in relation to the problem of uncertainty more generally. Focusing on issues of communication and persuasion, we consider the relative attractions of closed-system and open-system material for students as well as for teachers. The issues are addressed of how to build up an open-system programme and the respective roles of models, methodology, history of thought, history and contextual material.

2 responses

  • Very interesting paper!

    Open system analysis is the future of economics to my mind. However, we must take care. If open system approach tries to be a forecasting tool then it will fail as it is sensitive to initial conditions and our measurement of initial condition is not robust.

    However, using economics by open system analysis we can learn more about possible firm behaviour on micro side and fit it in a macro context. Concurrently, we can analyse macro policies and effectiveness thereof in a far mature manner than we currently do.

    Open system approach for analysis will be one solution to changing economics.

    Finally, having said that, it is damn difficult to teach open system approach. And as pointed out, one way is to assimilate through philosophy and allied subjects including history, law, psychology etc.

    Still I think this is one fine idea.


  • Haiyun Zhao says:

    I would like to see further elaboration of the argument related to mainstream economics as a closed-system and non-mainstream economics as an open-system.

    Haiyun Zhao