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With the Delta variant fueling fourth and fifth waves of COVID-19 infections, digital technologies transforming our jobs and lifestyles, and the effects of climate change becoming increasingly apparent, a “business as usual” approach to economic policy has never seemed so futile to so many. But what can or should replace?

In this Big Picture, Cornell University’s Kaushik Basu says that the new world in which we live demands major breakthroughs in economic thinking, and closer scrutiny of some of the discipline’s core assumptions. James K. Galbraith of the University of Texas at Austin agrees, arguing that the assumptions that underlie the neoliberal orthodoxy should have been discarded long ago – and would have been, if dissenters had access to the handful of leading journals shaping economic thinking.

But the economics profession is also narrow in another sense. As Northeastern University’s Alicia Sasser Modestino explains, women and minorities remain severely underrepresented in the discipline, owing to a persistently dysfunctional academic pipeline, which economists wrongly think market forces will solve. For his part, Harvard University’s Dani Rodrik sees some progress in addressing the profession’s gender and racial imbalances, but laments the woefully inadequate representation of voices from outside North America and Western Europe.