My Research & Scholarship:
I am a heterodox economist (explained below) and I pursue my scholarship and research both in theoretical and applied fields of economics.
1) International Development & Poverty Studies
2) Globalization, Institutions & Development Transformation.
Regional Focus for Applied Research: South India (primarily Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh)
- Rural livelihoods and food production systems
- Agrarian Transformation
- Agents and agency of change
1) Economic Thought: Theory &Philosophy, Methodologies & Practice;
2) Pluralism in Economics
Examples of Publications
Edited Book, 2009 Institutional Analysis and Praxis: The Social Fabric Matrix Approach edited by Natarajan,Tara, Wolfram Elsner, and Scott Fullwiler. Springer.
Journal, Special Issue Editor, 2015 Formal Methods for Integrated Socioeconomic Analysis, A Special Issue of the Forum for Social Economics edited by Natarajan, Tara, 2015, Taylor and Francis. Individual articles are available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rfse20
Examples of Journal Articles and Book Chapters
2017 Forthcoming Natarajan, Tara. “A Curricular and Pedagogical Approach to Enriching Undergraduate Economics: Integrating Heterodox Approaches from within” in a special issue on Innovations in Economic Education: Review of Keynesian Economics
2016 Natarajan, Tara and Wayne Edwards. “Institutions and Values: A Methodological Inquiry”, Journal of Economic Issues Vol L No 2 June 2016
2015 Natarajan. Tara. “Formal Methods for Integrated Socioeconomic Analysis: An Introduction to the Special Issue” in A Special Issue on Formal Methods for Integrated Socioeconomic Analysis, Ed. by Natarajan, Tara for the Forum for Social Economics, Taylor and Francis, currently published online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07360932.2015.1073606, DOI: 10.1080/07360932.2015.1073606
2014 Natarajan, Tara. “Shifting Economics: Fundamental questions and Amartya K. Sen’s Pragmatic Humanism” in the Journal of Philosophical Economics, Volume VIII Issue 1. Available at http://www.jpe.ro/?id=autor&p=2198
2009 Natarajan, Tara. “Indian Agriculture in a Liberalized Landscape: The Interlocking of Science, State Policy and Neo Liberalism.” Chapter 14, in Institutional Analysis and Praxis: The Social Fabric Matrix Approach, Eds. Natarajan,Tara, Wolfram Elsner, and Scott Fullwiler, pp. 291- 314 Springer.
2007 “Rigidities, Living Conditions, and Institutions in the Far North.” with Wayne Edwards Forum for Social Economics, Volume 36, No. 2, pp. 63-72.
2005 Natarajan, Tara. “Agency of Development and Agents of Change: Localization, Resistance and Empowerment”, Journal of Economic Issues, Vol. XXXIX No. 2.
On Heterodox & Mainstream Economics: Methodology, Values & Practice
Author: Tara Natarajan, Ph.D. Professor Economics Saint Michael’s College
This excerpt below consists of material I have written elsewhere: conference papers and journal articles. Please do not copy or cite without permission. Feel free to contact me for further references.
I am a heterodox (evolutionary and social) economist specializing in two subfields of economics listed above under “Research”. Heterodox economics is a classification of
economic thought and practice that consists of a heterogeneous group of approaches to economics as a subject. It is not a sub-field of economics; rather it is an umbrella term used to cover various approaches (world views), schools, or traditions which are considered outside the mainstream in economics. Mainstream economics i.e., the currently dominant/standard/received view is often also referred to as orthodox or conventional and/ or neoclassical economics.
In general heterodox economists, specifically evolutionary institutionalists view the economy as being embedded in society, thus as an evolving, real, complex, alterable, dynamic, socioeconomic system. “Heterodox economists distinguish themselves from mainstream orthodox economists by taking a much more dynamic and interdisciplinary approach to analyzing a much broader range of human economic issues”. Unlike mainstream economics, heterodox economics does not adhere to artificial universally static assumptions of an individual ‘agent’s’ behavior, is not predicated on the use of prescribed mathematically precise and elegant models and is thus not restricted by a specific methodology. While mainstream economics deals with the "rationality-individualism-equilibrium nexus", heterodox economics deals with the "institutions-history-social structure nexus”
… Evolutionary (institutional) economics is about the study of economies, of how people go about provisioning themselves, whether as individuals or as members of groups with common purposes. No universal aim, no universal method or logic is assumed. Rather it is what people want to achieve, and how they go about it- the institutions that govern provisioning-become the subjects of study. Standard economics [mainstream economics], becomes the logic of economizing, meaning least effort, least cost, most output based in universal assumptions of economic motives and behavior. Neale 1987
Founding heterodox thinkers such as Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes, and Thorstein Veblen were followed in the twentieth century by the influential works of Joan V. Robinson, Karl Polanyi, John R. Commons, John Kenneth Galbraith, Hyman Minsky to name a few. A few examples of heterodox schools of thought are: Marxian, Social, American (Evolutionary) Institutionalism, Feminist, Post-Keynesian amongst others with overlaps amongst some approaches more than others. Schools such as Behavioral Economics and those in the heterodox tradition also overlap in their unified cause to broaden mainstream economic methodology, enrich extant practices and values of economics therein except do so from different perspectives resulting in different methodologies.
According to Nobel Prize winning economist, Amartya K. Sen, whose life’s work amongst others has contributed to expanding the evaluative space in economics,
“What is objectionable in the economic theorizing that identifies widely different concepts of self-interest, motivations, etc., is not the fact of simplification itself, but the particular simplification chosen, which has the effect of taking a very narrow view of human beings (and their feelings, ideas and actions), thereby significantly impoverishing the scope and reach of economic theory.” A.K.Sen
“What goes wrong with the traditional model of the invisible hand is not just the limitation of relying exclusively on self –interest, but the stunning ambitiousness of trying to guarantee social efficiency- not to mention social optimality– on the basis of independent pursuit by some individuals of some general objective (such as profits). … The effectiveness of non-profit behavior is important in that less ambitious but more practical context.” Behavior norms have to be assessed in light of comparative achievements rather than in terms of just attainment or efficiency or optimality. A.K.Sen
According to pluralist and social economist Irene Van Staveren and feminist economist Julie Nelson,
In real life, humans are mentally incapable of doing the calculations that the neoclassical rationality assumption requires, and they have only imperfect information to inform their calculations. Economic actors cannot possibly calculate the algorithm assumed by standard rationality. They satisfy rather than maximise… Staveren 19
Economic behavior is neither purely determined from outside, nor purely subjective actions taken by unrelated self-interested individuals. Rather, economic behavior is the interdependent action of individuals in their societal relations. Staveren 21.
… if we allow that economic practice is human practice, developed and refined within human communities, then the possibility must be admitted that human limitations, interests, and perpetual biases will have effects on the culture of economics. …. economics, like any science, is socially constructed. Nelson
How can we address the role of [such] values in economics without, on the one hand, moving so far away from our discipline into sociology and without, on the other hand reducing values to axioms that exclude any meaningful rationality, as is in the case of neoclassical economics? In other words, we would first need to find out which values are particularly important in economic life compared to other values that may be important in other spheres of life. Second, we need to find out how these values are expressed in economic transactions. .. and how these values are somehow related to each other in the economic process. Staveren 25
Therefore, for heterodox economists, culture, power, ideology, social constructs and values are that from which economic behavior and outcomes derive, both at the aggregated and disaggregated level. So for example markets are an institution, embedded in culture, social institutions, attitudes, ideology and so forth, representing, “…a complex mix of the agency of individuals in their various roles, influenced by structures and influencing these structures in turn” (Staveren 21).
Heterodox economics treats problems as real, contextual and evolutionary. Processes of social life matter; they are subject to change and determined within a historical, cultural ideological and social context. Political ideas, ecology and technology impact society and the outcomes therein.
Therefore one of the goals of heterodox economics is to broaden the view of the economy and move away from the (extant) overly reductionist and arid view.
 See Journal of Economic Literature (JEL) classification codes for subfields and schools of thought published by the American Economic Association (AEA) (https://www.aeaweb.org/econlit/jelCodes.php?view=jel)
 Van den Berg, Hendrik. 2015 “Mainstream economics’ flight from complexity” in “Formal Methods for Integrated Socioeconomic Analysis” A Special Issue, Ed. Natarajan Tara, Forum for Social Economics 1-24
 This feature in mainstream economics is known as the practice of methodological individualism.
 The selectivity of the neoclassical rationality concept has been argued to be a scientific error causing a narrow mechanistic view against that of real people- both men and women- with needs and capabilities. For these and other critiques contributed to the reputation of economics as a ‘dismal science’, see Staveren 2001.
 Neale, Walter C. 1987 “Institutions”, Journal of Economic Issues 21 (3), 1177-1206
 He is generally not identified with any school of thought, thus lending an objective voice to this debate.
 Sen, Amartya K. 1987 Commodities and Capabilities Chapter 1 page 3 Oxford University press.
Sen, Amartya K. 1984 Resources, Values and Development
Leading scholars in questions of values and definition of economics, economic methodology.
 Staveren, Irene van 2001. Values of Economics: An Aristotelian Perspective Routledge
 Nelson, Julie 1995 “Feminism and Economics” in Journal of Economic Perspectives Vol 9 No 2,131-148
In addition to several national and international conference papers, international development workshops, field work, and book review I have published articles in the Journal of Economic Issues, The Forum for Social Economics, Native Studies Review. My most recent work is a book entitled Institutional Analysis and Praxis: The Social Fabric Matrix edited by Tara Natarajan, Scott Fullwiler and Wolfram Elsner (Springer, Summer 2009).