Economic Controversies

Academic year
Subject Area
Language of Instruction
Mode of Delivery
ECTS Credits
1st Cycle Studies

Recommended Prerequisites

Previous attendance of an introductory course in economics is recommended.

Teaching Methods

1. Presentation of each topic by the teacher giving relevance to the identification of the problems in study and of the positions under discussion (short texts, selected from the press or the Internet, and videos will be used whenever possible to enliven the introduction to the subject).

2. Analysis in small groups and discussion in the class of selected scientific papers with a view to identifying their arguments and (explicit and hidden) assumptions.

3. The last topic (III) will be worked in groups and the final results presented and discussed in the class.

Learning Outcomes

The purpose of this unit is to show the plural nature of economics as a science and make students aware of the importance of critical thinking, of knowing the history of the discipline and of reflection on its foundations. By looking into some current and past controversies in economics students learn the relevance of analysis and critical discussion.

By the end, students are expected to:

- Be able to reflect on the nature of economic knowledge, its foundations, the theories that they learn and their application to real-world problems;

- Become aware of the relevance and non-neutral nature of economists’ choices on method;

- Be able to identify the competing traits of the different economic positions analysed in class and critically compare them;

- Understand what is at stake in an economic debate or controversy;

- Be able to analyse an economic text and identify its arguments;

- Be able to develop logical and coherent economic arguments and sustain them, both orally and in writing.

Work Placement(s)



I. Controversy and pluralism in economics. Economics as a complex system. Mainstream and heterodoxies. Schools of economic thought. The historical and methodological perspective. Argumentation, rhetoric and critical thinking.

II. Controversies on the foundations of economics.

A. The science/policy distinction, economic expertise and the role of the economist.

B. Value judgments in economics. Economics as engineering vs. economics as a moral science.

C. Economics, the economic approach to human behavior and interdisciplinarity.

D. Value, economic calculation and languages of valuation.

- The historical origins of the debate.

- Contemporary views on the incommensurability of values.

E. Economic modeling and mathematical formalism.

III. Contending perspectives on the role of the state in the economy.

Head Lecturer(s)

Vítor Manuel Leite Neves

Assessment Methods

Periodic or by final exam as given in the course information: 50.0%
Exam: 50.0%


Para cada tema será fornecida uma lista de textos (obrigatórios e complementares), a disponibilizar no nónio (via inforestudante) no início das aulas / for each topic a reading list will be provided each year in the beginning of the course.