John Kenneth Galbraith: a radical economist?

Stefan Kesting (Economics – Faculty of Business, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)

International Journal of Social Economics

ISSN: 0306-8293

Publication date: 16 February 2010



The paper seeks to answer the question: why is John Kenneth Galbraith a radical economist? The purpose of this paper is to show how he contributed to the development of economic theory and how this contribution differs radically from mainstream economics.


In concentrating on Galbraith's theory of power – certainly his most radical contribution to economics – the paper begins to provide an overview of his conceptual work. This overview includes Galbraith's theory of consumption, the firm and financial crisis and ends with his vision for the future. To demonstrate the radical nature of Galbraith's frameworks, they are compared to other heterodox economic theories – namely Institutional and Post Keynesian economics and to a number of randomly chosen standard economics textbook.


This comparative and interpretive exercise clearly demonstrates links of Galbraithian with other heterodox economic theories and very little mentioning and uptake of these concepts in widely used economics textbooks. Galbraith's ideas do seem to fit in well with Institutional and Post Keynesian economics, but not with standard economics.

Practical implications

Galbraithian economics is a clear example of a set of heterodox economic ideas that can be taught probably best as a separate and alternative framework of analysis to the mainstream. To familiarize students with Galbraith's economics will certainly strengthen their analytical abilities and provide them with radically different and particularly useful insights in this time of financial crisis.


The paper demonstrates the explanatory value of Galbraith's economics and the origin of the radical nature of his concepts which lies in his theory of power.



Kesting, S. (2010), "John Kenneth Galbraith: a radical economist?", International Journal of Social Economics, Vol. 37 No. 3, pp. 179-196.



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