The desocialising of economic theory

William A. Jackson (Department of Economics and Related Studies, University of York, York, UK)

International Journal of Social Economics

ISSN: 0306-8293

Publication date: 26 July 2013



The paper aims to show that economic theory has become “desocialised” and separated from social theory through the adoption of individualistic methods and neglect of social relations and structures. It also seeks to assess the upshot of these trends, as well as the prospects for reversing them.


A historical overview traces how the social content of economic theory has diminished, considering the reasons why. This leads on to a wider evaluation of what desocialisation entails and whether economics could be done differently.


Desocialisation stems from the desire for boundaries between academic disciplines, which drove economics towards individualism and other social sciences towards structural methods. Such an artificial divide between economic theory and social theory is argued to be detrimental to all the disciplines concerned.

Practical implications

Restrictions imposed by desocialised theory have practical consequences for how we understand and model the economy. Some reforms that would loosen the restrictions so as to promote a resocialised economics are suggested.


The idea of desocialisation is defined and interpreted, drawing attention to the changing nature of economics, its isolation from other social sciences, and the possibilities for alternative modes of economic theorising.



Jackson, W.A. (2013), "The desocialising of economic theory", International Journal of Social Economics, Vol. 40 No. 9, pp. 809-825.

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