Economics:  an introductory reading list

The picture of construction worker doing the daily morning excise before the daily work. With the background of Hong Kong Harbour, it showed the busy and growth of the city.

Your mission:  to compile an introductory reading list for Economics.

Time allowed?  30 minutes


Quick, get a definition.

Economics is… ‘The branch of knowledge concerned with the production, consumption, and transfer of wealth.’ (Oxford

or  ‘The science that deals with the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services, or the material welfare of humankind’ (

It seems to involve two branches:

  • ‘macroeconomics’ – large-scale or general economic factors, such as interest rates and national productivity
  • microeconomics – single factors and the effects of individual decisions

A web search turns up:

  • Raworth, K. Doughnut Economics (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2017)
  • Pettifor, A. The Production of Money:  How to Break the Power of Bankers (Verso Books, 2017)
  • Lo, A. W. Adaptive Markets: Financial Evolution at the Speed of Thought (Princeton University Press, 2017)
  • Krugman, Paul R.; Obstfeld, Maurice; and Melitz, Mark, International Economics:  Theory and Policy (Pearson Education 2014, 10th edition)
  • Sloman, John; Wride, Alison; Garratt, Dean, Economics (Pearson, 2014, 9th edition)
  • Hazlitt, Henry, Economics in One Lesson:  The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics (Crown Publications, 2010)
  • N.G. Mankiw. 2016. Macroeconomics (6th edition), Worth Publishers.
  • R. Frank. 2015. Microeconomics and Behaviour (9th edition), McGraw-Hill.
  • D. Besanko and R. Braeutigam. 2014. Microeconomics (5th edition), Wiley.
  • Samuelson, P. and Nordhaus, W. (1948), Economics, McGraw-Hill
  • Dubner, S. and Levitt, S. (2011), Freakonomics, HarperCollins
  • Piketty, T. (2013), Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Harvard University Press
  • Smith, A. (1776), An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations

The Shelf Test

You are standing in front of shelves in SOAS University of London library, running a glance down the leaflet of classmarks in your hand:  Comparative Economics; Land and Property; Development and Growth; Macroeconomics; Distribution of income and growth; Microeconomics; Economic systems, schools, theories; Money, banking and finance; Econometrics; Multilateral Economic Cooperation; Economic Situation and Conditions; Political Economy; Environmental economics, Natural Resources and Energy; Public Finance; Industry and business; Rural Economics & Agriculture; International Economics & Finance; Socialism and Related Systems; Labour Economics; Trade.

Ahead of you is a copy of ‘International Economics’, measuring over 5” across its spine, how about this thinner one?

  • Wolf, Martin: Why globalization works:  the case for the global market economy (Yale Nota Bene, 2005)

‘The definitive treatment of the subject, and an absorbing read’ – The Economist


  • Steger, Manfred B: Globalization:  A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2013)

A title about tax havens catches your eye:

  • Palan, R; Murphy, R; Chavagneux, C, Tax Havens: How Globalization Really Works (Ithaca & London:  Cornell University Press, 2010).

 ‘They say in financial circles that “those who know do not talk and those who talk don’t know… the world of tax havens is opaque, confusing and secretive.

 You don’t know.  So, you skim-read the Department of Economics entry on SOAS website:

specialises in political economy and in the economics of developing and emerging economies … a pluralist and applied approach… ensure all our students graduate with an excellent understanding of mainstream economic theory… also encourage our students to develop a proper understanding of the limitations of mainstream theory… the history of economics as a discipline… alternative, ‘heterodox’ approaches to economic analysis, including Marxist, feminist, Keynesian, and Schumpeterian perspectives…the application of economics to real world issues and reflecting real policy concerns… develop a deep understanding of particular countries and issues… concrete analysis of history, institutions, and political economy…shared view within the department … economics should be rigorous, reflective and, fundamentally, useful.

You home in on the reference to Marxist analysis. You locate a copy of Volume 1 of the 3-volume work Das Kapital/Capital:  A Critique of Political Economy, which is just along the shelf. Its chapter headings include, ‘Money, or the Circulation of Commodities’, ‘The Working Day’, ‘The Division of Labour and Manufacture’ and ‘The Modern Theory of Colonization’.

Volume 1 is 1,141 pages long, volume 2 – 624, and volume 3 – 1,086:  you will come back to read it later!  Now, you flick to the end of Volume 3, to read the conclusion:

‘… division of social labour splits not only workers but also capitalists and landowners – the latter, for instance, into vineyard-owners, field-owners, forest-owners, mine-owners, fishery-owners etc

(At this point the manuscript breaks off.  F.E.*

[*F.E. or Friedrich Engels, edited volumes 2 and 3, which were published posthumously]

30 minutes are up.  Time to put your introductory reading list to the final test.

An Academic’s response:  Dr Ourania Dimakou

The subject of, and theoretical and policy debates within, economics may not be well-represented, even in web searches! Economics is a multifaceted field of inquiry, with a set of different, often competing, approaches to studying it, and this is how it is addressed at SOAS. Here is a list of books, web-based material and podcasts that may be of interest to those with an eye for a pluralist and critical stance towards Economics:

Some textbooks

  • Snowdon, B. and Vane H.R., Modern Macroeconomics: Its Origins, Development and Current State (Edward Elgar, 2005)
  • Fine, B. and Saad Filho, A., Marx’s ‘Capital’. Fifth edition.Pluto Press (2010)
  • Foley, D., Adam’s Fallacy: A Guide to Economic Theology. Harvard University Press (2006)
  • Robinson, J. and Eatwell, J., An Introduction to Modern Economics. McGraw Hill (1973)
  • H. Rethinking Development Economics. Anthem Press (2003)
  • Milonakis, D. and Fine, B., From Political Economy to Economics. Routledge (2009)

Economics Department Podcasts

The SOAS branch of the Rethinking Economics student movement, Open Economics Forum, is also very active in exploring and promoting a plurality of methodologies and paradigms. Here are some of their recent events:

  • Screening and Q&A with the directors of – The Spider’s Web: Britain’s Second Empire
  • The Curriculum Revolution: Changing How Economics is Taught
  • Breaking (Down) Banks: Issues of Inequality, accountability and the environment
  • Decolonising Economics

Further information

Follow us, including OEF’s popular Cakeonomics events:

Facebook:     SOASEconomics

Twitter:         @SOASEconomics

Podcasts:       visit Soundcloud / SOASEconomics

Dr Ourania Dimakou is co-author of Fine, Ben and Dimakou, Ourania (2016) Macroeconomics: A Critical Companion. London: Pluto.

She is course convenor for three undergraduate degree programmes:

BA Economics and… (two subject degree)

BSc Development Economics

BSc Economics

See also:

Department of Economics

Graduate Diploma in Economics

Provides students with a solid understanding of the main topics in economics. It is a programme largely at an undergraduate level, designed both as an entry qualification for postgraduate study and as a bridge between undergraduate and postgraduate work.

Who do graduates work for?




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