Epistemological break in political economy

Here is an excerpt from an article published on the Center for the Study of Governance & Society blog:

McCloskey’s calls to pay attention to the figures of speech the economist and the ordinary bourgeois use are invaluable. They helped the profession reorient its focus and start paying attention to the narratives through which seventeenth century bourgeoisie sought to alter commercial, scientific, and civic discourse. However, if we stop here, we argue, the closure of the epistemological break will be incomplete.

The collection of essays on “Freedom and History in Economics” in honor of Deirdre McCloskey was published earlier this year in Schmollers Jahrbuch.

Conversation with the extended present

I am not going to lie that I was quite happy when I found that the Stanford University Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences shared my History of Economic Thought syllabus on their pages (it happens to be in quite a good company).

Here is a couple of resources for teaching the history of economic thought I have generated over time. Below are two conversations on specific topics along with a detailed reading list:

I started putting these together as Conversations with the Extended Present (a subtle wink to Kenneth Boulding, of course).

Here is the complete reading list for the class and here is a general description of the course.

What can Kareem Abdul-Jabbar teach us about markets?

When Kareem Abdul-Jabbar took part in sports, he did more than sell his services to his team. He enriched basketball with his skyhook, but he also challenged existing beliefs about how black athletes were supposed to conduct themselves and he used his platform to discuss broader issues of race and black identity through his name change and outspokenness. These contributions influenced the terms on which the game of basketball and more broadly sports operated: the access and opportunities which other black athletes had.

Read more here.

From my review on Recharting the History of Economic Thought

Read more here:

Here are David Colander’s thoughts:

Books written for open-minded mainstream would be structured differently; they would be more carefully crafted, better capturing the subtlety of views that characterize the best of mainstream economists. Their analysis would be fine grained—designed to show sympathetic mainstream economists where they might consider moderating their views.

David Colander, « Kevin Deane and Elias van Waeyenberge (eds), Recharting the History of Economic Thought », Œconomia, 11-1 | 2021, 235-239.

My students on History of Economics

From this year’s student evaluations:

This has been by far the most enjoyable yet stimulating module for me during my time at Bristol.

This unit was by far the best unit I have taken at this university. I found my own academic interest in this unit and because of it I now know that I want to pursue History of Economic Thought for my postgraduate degree.

Best course of my university career so far. I learnt some great lessons and feel like it wouldn’t have been the same without the commited tutors.

I wish there would be a third year offering too as I would have done that after having enjoyed it so much this year.  My favourite unit of the year hands down.

This is the unit which I most enjoyed studying for during this year and it was very helpful to build my confidence t develop my own ideas as well as enhancing my writing skills.

It was really a great unit. I feel like I have a much better understanding of my degree and economics as a whole because of this unit. It’s definitely the most interesting and engaging unit I’ve done so far. It should be compulsory!

I am always humbled to hear back from our students. More reactions here.

Distant idea of this felicity

He is enchanted with the distant idea of this felicity. It appears in his fancy like the life of some superior rank of beings, and, in order to arrive at it, he devotes himself for ever to the pursuit of wealth and greatness. To obtain the conveniencies which these afford, he submits in the first year, nay, in the first month of his application, to more fatigue of body and more uneasiness of mind, than he could have suffered through the whole of his life from the want of them. He studies to distinguish himself in some laborious profession. With the most unrelenting industry he labours night and day to acquire talents superior to all his competitors. He endeavours next to bring those talents into public view, and with equal assiduity solicits every opportunity of employment. For this purpose he makes his court to all mankind; he serves those whom he hates, and is obsequious to those whom he despises. Through the whole of his life he pursues the idea of a certain artificial and elegant repose which he may never arrive at, for which he sacrifices a real tranquillity that is at all times in his power, and which, if in the extremity of old age he should at last attain to it, he will find to be in no respect preferable to that humble security and contentment which he had abandoned for it. It is then, in the last dregs of life, his body wasted with toil and diseases, his mind galled and ruffled by the memory of a thousand injuries and disappointments which he imagines he has met with from the injustice of his enemies, or from the perfidy and ingratitude of his friends, that he begins at last to find that wealth and greatness are mere trinkets of frivolous utility

Evidence of empathetic leadership at the institutional level is in short supply

Lisa Jaremka, director of the Close Relationships and Health Lab at the University of Delaware in Newark, says that pressures leading to burnout are institutional and that academic structures must change. Those in power, including university administrators, members of hiring committees and department chairs, need to change expectations and set new ones, Jaremka says.

Risk, Choice, and Uncertainty

Here is a paragraph from my review of George Szpiro’s book:

While Szpiro tells a highly engaging and informative story about the discipline that mostly purged true uncertainty from its textbooks, he does so unreflectively. The lack of reflection is apparent from the illustration of Kahneman and Tversky’s concept of framing. Szpiro asks the reader to “imagine that the U.S. is preparing for the outbreak of an unusual Asian disease which is expected to kill 600 people” while presenting the reader with two programs one of which is “uncertain” in that if chosen, people would be “risk taking” (p. 198) by facing certain payoffs with certain probabilities. The problem is — as Michael J. Ryan, the Executive Director of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Programme, recently pointed out — that we often find ourselves in situations where “there are no numbers that say if this number is this then you do that” (WHO 2020). After all, Frank Knight (1921) and John Maynard Keynes (1936, 1937) reminded us that not all decisions have the character of a lottery. The lack of reflection on when and how reducing true uncertainty to calculable risk took place in economics is, in my opinion, a serious omission of the otherwise excellent book.

Read the whole review at

2019 Warren Samuels Prize

Lachmann and Shackle: On the Joint Production of Interpretation Instruments” (coauthored with Erwin Dekker) has recently been awarded the 2019 Warren Samuels Prize for Interdisciplinary Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology as well as the Outstanding Author Contribution category in the 2020 Emerald Literati Awards

The prize winner is chosen each year by RHETM’s editorial board from among the papers accepted for publication in the journal throughout the year. Previous winners include the late Gabriel Oliva, Tom Stapleford, Wade Hands, and Isabella Weber and Gregor Semieniuk.

Here is me talking about the paper at THETS 2018 Conference at Balliol College, Oxford (slides here).

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