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Background on Microeconomics in Context

Microeconomics in Context is the first textbook to describe the workings of a modern economy through the lens of "contextual economics." This work builds upon the strengths of standard, neoclassical economics, but takes account of environmental, technical, institutional, political and social issues that are neglected in other introductory "Principles" textbooks. A transitional economies version of Microeconomics in Context has been published in Russian and Vietnamese. Houghton Mifflin published the First Edition of Microeconomics in Context in 2005, as well as a 2008 Italian edition. In 2008 M.E. Sharpe published the Second Edition of Microeconomics in Context.

The impetus for this project came from a perceived need in transitional economies for an economics principles text sensitive to economic, political, and institutional upheaval and uncertainty. Translated standard Western texts commonly describe an idealized theoretical world that bears little relation to the reality of a transitional economy. Standard texts also largely disregard such relevant and significant topics as environmental limits, social and economic inequities, the value of household production, and the importance of institutions and customs. These limitations of existing Principles texts led us to the conclusion – supported by the special interest of Nobel laureate Wassily Leontief – that a new text was needed which would present the economic system within its social and physical context.

While such a presentation was greatly needed in transitional economies, we firmly believe that many economics students in the United States are also frustrated with the abstract and confined exposition of most Principles texts. With the help of many talented individuals, the Microeconomics in Context project has evolved along two lines; one version of the text appropriate for transitional economies, and another version primarily targeted for an audience in the United States.

All versions of Microeconomics in Context – for industrialized and transitional economies – present the workings of the economic system within a broader social, cultural, environmental, and political context. We call this approach to studying and understanding the economic system “contextual economics.” The contextual economics perspective differs from standard economic presentations in that it recognizes the critical importance of goals and values, the physical and social context, and a wide range of commonly neglected economic activities such as household production and environmental protection. It is built on the premise that economic activity should promote the well-being of all people, including those of future generations. Contextual economics is designed to be scientifically defensible yet clear and relevant.

“Some Defining Characteristics of Contextual Economics” (by Neva Goodwin, October 2002, .pdf file)

"How the First Edition of Microeconomics in Context Came to be Written for Russia" (From a Fall 1999 talk by Neva Goodwin)


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