I've been reading up a bit on heterodox economics as well as watched some of the lectures online and quite frankly, I'm having a hard time figuring out whats are the unique features of this school of thought.

Meaning that it seems to me (as of now) one can learn about uncertainty from standard economics textbooks and read up on Marxian economics and seemingly find little to be gained from this approach.Though I could be not very open minded in this regard.

This all being said, what are some of the unique features of heterodox economics that one wouldn't necessarily be exposed otherwise?

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    $\begingroup$ For starters, it's not a single school. $\endgroup$ – Fizz May 30 '19 at 6:18
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, currently the question is very much like "what are some unique non-apples". It is very broad. $\endgroup$ – Giskard May 30 '19 at 6:43
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    $\begingroup$ @Giskard does that mean hetrodox economics isnt well defined? $\endgroup$ – EconJohn May 30 '19 at 13:40
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    $\begingroup$ It is well-defined in the sense that it is an umbrella term for everything non-mainstream/non-orthodox/non-neoclassical. $\endgroup$ – Bayesian May 30 '19 at 17:35
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    $\begingroup$ Regarding @Giskard's comment; according to Dequech "heterodox" has been defined as either outside of neoclassical proper (which would include in heterodoxy, for instance, behavioral economics), or as outside of mainstream as taught in most reputable academia... in the latter case behavioral economics would not be heterodox. $\endgroup$ – Fizz May 30 '19 at 21:54

Among the references in the paper hinted by indigo_luc, there's one (Mearman, 2011), which [was apparently the first that] has surveyed some (43) self-styled heterodox economists and applied factor analysis as well as cluster analysis to their ideas:

[The first factor is addressed in the next para.] The second factor has high loadings on class, power, labor, gender and (negatively) markets. Factor 2 might thus be called a “radical” (or perhaps Marxist-feminist) grouping. Factor 3 might be an “Austrian” grouping, associating uncertainty, individualism and fallibilism. Factor 4 is perhaps a “Post Keynesian” group that stresses money and history. Factor 5 suggests an “ecological economics” group that stresses natural systems, but also the use of mathematics.

Factor 1 might be called a mainstream factor. Significantly, this factor groups rational, equilibrium and scarcity. This may reflect a bias within heterodox economics as to what constitutes the mainstream: i.e., if heterodox economists associate scarcity, equilibrium and rationality with the mainstream, they may reject them more easily. The finding also partly supports Davis’ (2009) definition of the mainstream in terms of equilibrium, rationality and individualism. However, the adoption of individualism by Austrian economists means that the adoption of individualism alone cannot be a definition of the mainstream; it also complicates the division between mainstream and heterodox. Further, the mean scores for “mainstream concepts,” although consistently lower than heterodox concepts, are consistently non-zero. Also, although there was a significant negative correlation between mainstream and heterodox, the correlation coefficient was only |0.438|, meaning that many respondents regard themselves mainly as clearly defined heterodox economists—yet with an important element of mainstream economics thrown in. Heterodox economists are a mixture of concepts and influences. An alternative interpretation is that heterodox and mainstream are overlapping categories. This would be significant given that treatments of mainstream and heterodox often treat them as strictly distinct. The other clear finding for this group is that in terms of concepts, heterodox economics remains a concatenation of ideas (echoing Lee’s (2010) term) and groupings of individuals.

As for cluster analysis:

Cluster A, the largest, is characterized by a rejection of the label “mainstream” and to some extent of mainstream concepts (apart from individuals and markets). The second feature of cluster A is an acceptance of the label as heterodox and pluralist and a matching acceptance of general heterodox concepts such as class, uncertainty, fallibilism, power, money and history. It could be argued that this cluster exemplifies the recently developing picture of heterodoxy as being non-mainstream but pluralist, with a concern for methodological issues. Almost all of the female respondents to the survey are in this group, although it is far from clear why this would occur.

Cluster B is different, exhibiting much stronger rejection of the mainstream and its concepts, maximum scores for class and labor and much lower scores than the other clusters for uncertainty and fallibilism. Methodologically this group scored much higher than cluster A on the need for maths in economics. Cluster B seems like a Marxist group and indeed its cluster members are self-identified radicals.

Cluster C is different from clusters A and B in that it does not reject the label of being mainstream, whilst accepting the labels of heterodox and pluralist. This cluster is similar to cluster A but more pluralist. The members of this cluster reject the strict distinctions between the three categories. Further, although this cluster accepts many of the traditional heterodox concepts such as power, labor and class, it also accepts mainstream notions such as rational, equilibrium, positive, maths and crucially, scarcity. Above, when factor analysis was conducted, a factor was extracted that was labeled “mainstream” whereas the view of cluster C suggests instead this use of mainstream concepts alongside heterodox ones is another exhibition of pluralism. Unfortunately these individuals are difficult to identify from the information gleaned so it is difficult to draw too many conclusions. It should also be noted that in the dendrogram, arguably cluster C might have been split into two, so perhaps not too much coherence should be expected.

Cluster D is in some ways the most interesting cluster because it contains most of the cases identified as peripheral. The cluster score for mainstream is similar to cluster C, but the score for heterodox is lower. Accordingly, scores for core heterodox concepts such as class, power, gender and particularly labor are clearly lower than for the other clusters. As a corollary, cluster D’s scores for individuals, markets and rational are much higher than for the other clusters. Looking at the cases who are members of this cluster, they appear to be members of underrepresented elements of heterodox thought, such as behavioral economics, Austrian economics and American institutionalism.

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  • $\begingroup$ had the chance to read this fully. great answer. $\endgroup$ – EconJohn Jun 20 '19 at 1:27

This might help: https://academic.oup.com/cje/article/43/3/527/5150014

Abstract This paper revisits the conception of heterodox economics advanced by Tony Lawson in 2006 and critically assesses its reception. I consider the bearing of later contributions—most importantly, his 2013 paper ‘What is this “school” called neoclassical economics’—in which Lawson further develops his analysis of heterodox economics. The goal is to provide additional clarity to the discussion.

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  • $\begingroup$ That's not very insightful unless one knows what Lawson's conception is, and even then, the abstract doesn't say much about it... "Teaser" abstracts are discouraged in science, but either that was impossible to avoid here or the author(s) didn't know any better. $\endgroup$ – Fizz May 30 '19 at 21:51
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    $\begingroup$ The (open access) article explains that Lawson's conception (of orthodoxy) is ‘insistence on mathematical modelling’. That's probably a 3rd (or 4th) def of heterodox I've seen today. See my comments under the question for the others. $\endgroup$ – Fizz May 30 '19 at 22:04

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