Chapter 1 Introduction to the Handbook of Alternative Theories of Political Economy
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Political economy is a tool for understanding the material conditions shaping social possibilities and helping to steer societal change. It challenges mainstream economics and its prescriptions. Moreover, it constitutes a longer and more broadly based tradition of analysis, stemming from classical political economy and extending to diverse schools of modern heterodox economic thought and interdisciplinary studies. This chapter provides an overview of contemporary political economy as an area of knowledge. It includes an explanation of political economy's relationships to orthodox economics and its relative openness to interdisciplinarity. It discusses how the scope of political economy may be defined and argues for both unity in opposition (to mainstream economics) and unity in diversity (through adopting a pluralist approach). Finally, the chapter provides an introduction to contents of the various sections of the Handbook of Alternative Theories of Political Economy.