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Cogs and Monsters

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Cogs and Monsters

What Economics Is, and What It Should Be

Princeton UP,

15 min read
8 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

The digital age is shaping the future direction of economics. 

Editorial Rating



  • Overview
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  • Insider's Take


In a book brimming with insights and expertise, professor Diane Coyle offers a wide-ranging overview of the current state of economics, a field that has come under fierce fire in recent years. Coyle disputes many of the straw-man criticisms without being polemical, but she does call for a rethinking of some of the assumptions on which the science is based that have had adverse societal impacts. Her work on the digital economy, in particular, provides nuanced conclusions on how to measure, regulate and manage it. Analysts and executives will find this a valuable look at the modern economy.


Economics has evolved – for the better – by incorporating psychology, technology and history.

Many economists have responded to popular criticisms of their field in the aftermath of the 2008 Great Financial Crisis (GFC) and have taken its lessons to heart. The accusation that economics wants to be a more precise, hard science, like physics, is no longer as valid as it was in the past. 

The current movement toward more empirical research – aided by big data and computing power, and even randomized control trials – pushes against this stereotype of theoretical and abstract approaches. Insiders know that the field of economics is evolving positively, as it more and more integrates the impacts of psychology, technology, institutions, history and culture, asymmetric information, and transaction costs.

Macroeconomics is the most prominent subspecialty in economics, at least to most outsiders, and it treats the most volatile and unpredictable problems that occur on national and global levels. But most economists are actually employed to work on specific microeconomic issues, where knowledge is...

About the Author

Diane Coyle is a professor of public policy at the University of Cambridge. Her previous books include Markets, States, and People; GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History; and The Economics of Enough.

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