Until about 1880, the term political economy encompassed the area of social thought subsequently known as economics, and a great deal besides. More recently, it has acquired a range of different meanings. With the rise to dominance of neoclassical economics in the twentieth century, it was used increasingly in reference to nonneoclassical economics, and particularly to Marxian theory. Heterodox economists have largely concurred, describing their own work as political economy in order to distinguish it from the mainstream. However, in recent decades, orthodoxy itself has come to embrace what it regards as legitimate political economies that seek to explain institutions, including those of politics, along with government policies, in terms of rational choice theory. This entry concentrates on Marxian political economy, which is still the ...

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