Keywords: Economics, economic theory, sustainable development

Title: Economics: A Very Short Introduction

Author: Partha Dasgupta

Publisher: OUP

ISBN: 0192853457


While it is billed as a 'Very Short Introduction', and the book is decidedly on the small side, there is nothing simplistic about Partha Dasgupta's introduction to economics. Whatever else this book is, it is not 'Economics for the intellectually challenged'. Instead the author introduces the reader to the key concerns of modern economics, pointing out both the relevance to everyday life and the empirical basis of economic thought.

There are two popular perceptions of economics. The first is that it is primarily about stock market indices, balance of payments and so on. The second is that it is a dry, heavily mathematical activity beyond the understanding of the non-specialist. Both these misconceptions are addressed. Dasgupta roots the book in the daily lives of real people, asking questions as to why people in different countries have such widely different options and choices available to them. Stock market indices and the like do not figure directly in the lives of most ordinary folk. Instead they have choices to make about how to earn money, how to spend that money, how to invest in the future and so on.

In terms of mathematical analysis Dasgupta makes plain that these are essential tools for the practicing economist, though this text is largely free of math. That isn't to say that the book is a light read. Even without the econometrics, Dasgupta presents complex arguments that require close attention from the reader.

There is a fairly wide variety of topics that are covered in such a relatively slim volume, including issues such as trust, communities, science and technology, sustainable economic development and the role of government in social well-being. In all cases the text is direct, rigorous and thought-provoking.

If the intention is to make the reader think then the book certainly succeeds. It provides an intelligent, rigorous and readable introduction to economics, relating the subject to both local and global concerns but without losing sight of the fact that economics is about real people making real decisions about their lives and the lives of their families and communities.

Contents © London Book Review 2007. Published March 1 2007