2012 Keith Hancock Lecture

Event Date: 
18 September 2012
Event Type: 
Public Forum
Event Location: 
The Foyer, Sydney Law School.
Event Time: 
6 p.m.
John E King - A case for pluralism

Every two years the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia honours one of its past Presidents, Professor Keith J Hancock with a named public lecture presented by a scholar who has achieved excellence in their chosen field. The Academy has selected Professor John Edward king of the Department of Economics and Finance at La Trobe University to present the 2012 Keith Hancock Lecture.

The Hancock Lecture is delivered at the lecturer’s home university and then two other universities in different cities. The University of Sydney (Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences) has agreed to host one of these lectures. The lecture is scheduled for Tuesday 18 September and will be part of Sydney Ideas. The venue is the Foyer, Sydney Law School. The start will be 6.00 pm.

Lecture title

A case for pluralism

Short biography

John E. King is Professor of Economics at La Trobe University in Melbourne, where he has taught since 1988. His principal research interests are in the history of heterodox economic thought, with particular reference to Marxian political economy and Post Keynesian economics.

His recent publications include The Rise of Neoliberalism in Advanced Capitalism: a Materialist Analysis (with M.C. Howard) (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), Nicholas Kaldor (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009) and The Microfoundations Delusion (Elgar, 2012). He is also the editor of The Elgar Companion to Post Keynesian Economics (second edition, 2012). Professor King is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia (FASSA).


In this lecture Professor King will argue that economics is unique among the social sciences in having a single monolithic mainstream, which is either unaware of or actively hostile to alternative approaches.

He will present a case for pluralism in economics, derived from the complex and ceaselessly changing nature of the world in which we live. He will concentrate on two arguments. First, economic reality is very complicated, so that the questions that economists ask are therefore inherently difficult, and it is unlikely that they have simple answers. Since no theory can consider all relevant factors in any particular economic context, this establishes a strong prima facie case for theoretical pluralism. Second, economic reality is fluid and subject to continuous change, so that the quest for a single, ‘general’ theory applicable to human behaviour in all societies, at all points in time, is a delusion. To illustrate the case for pluralism Professor King will draw on the recent history of the global economy, the problems encountered in understanding it solely in terms of mainstream macroeconomics, and the dangerous policy implications that have been drawn from mainstream theory