The Evolving Notion of Relevance: an historical perspective to the ‘economics made fun’ movement

This paper aims to study the ‘economics made fun’ literature with regard to its main purpose: popularizing economics. We shed an historical light on such literature by showing that its main strategy for introducing economics to non-specialists had already been tried in the 1970s in what were described as “issues-oriented” textbooks. We show that both literatures, as introductory enterprises, were responses to similar challenges. The first one is the problem of economic illiteracy, a problem that has concerned teachers in economics since the early 1960s. Both literatures did offer an interesting response to perceived shortcomings of introductory courses. The second challenge came from the attacks on economics and its teaching for their lack of relevance. We explore how the notion of relevance evolved in time and how both literatures attempted to respond to the criticisms of their time accordingly. By addressing these questions, our study explores how economists used these introductory enterprises to disseminate a certain image of them and their discipline in comparison to other social scientists and non-specialists, and how these representations evolved in time.

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