Backhouse and Bateman want Worldly Philosophers, not only dentists; not everyone agrees

Professors Roger Backhouse and Brad Bateman wrote an op-ed for the New York Times a few days ago, arguing that "thanks to decades of academic training in the “dentistry” approach to economics, today’s Keynes or Friedman is nowhere to be found" - we have stopped thinking big they say. Read more

Does Economics blogging open new conversations ? (Part I)

This is the question I'm supposed to answer for an experimental INET conference aimed at inspiring new thinking through interdisciplinary conversation and collective reflection without rules. Read more

Nobel Prize Tasseology

Till is right. It's not the historian's task to question the legitimacy of the decisions of the Nobel Committee. What he can do instead is “describe the culture in which credit is given.” For the Nobel prize does not only work as a canonization device. It also aims at establishing a genealogy of heros that fits the concerns of the days. In this perspective, “reading” and/ or “interpreting” this year's prize is less straightforward that many have argued. Read more

Bretton Woods, Past and Present: 3. Models in Economics

I cannot resist but to start quoting Mary Morgan's second entry to the second edition of the New Palgrave: “Modeling became the dominant methodology of economics during the 20th century.” If models were not a “recognized category in discussions about methodology” in the late 19th century, they have become central to economics after the 1930s. Models are “complex objects constructed out of many resources” that come from disparate sources and serve as measuring instruments (as argued by Marcel Boumans in his 2005 book How Economists Model the World into Numbers), and are autonomous agents that mediate theories and the real world (as argued by Mary Morgan and Margaret Morrison in their chapter to the 1999 edited volume Models as Mediators). And, returning to the Palgrave entry, models function in different ways for different purposes: Read more

Progress in Economics: A Comment

I thought I could use some of my illegitimate blog administrator's privileges to participate in the discussion on the "progress in economics" post by Floris without being lost in the midst of other users' comments. What strikes me both in the video interviews and in the related comments is how it lacks historical and sociological understanding. Of course, it strikes me because we are first and mostly a history of economics blog with a strong interest in the methodology of science studies but I do not think that this lack is solely annoying from an historian's or a sociologist's perspective. Rather, I think it is problematic on a much larger level.  Read more

Bretton Woods, Past and Present: 2. Progress in Economics

Ok, time to deal with the elephant in the room: when is one theory better than the other? What is progress in economics?

Is it not repeating the mistakes of the 1930s? Is it a more refined equilibrium concept? Lower p-values and higher t-statistics? More predictive power? Or is progress in economics simply an intuitive hunch that the present theory is better than the previous one?

If economics were a game of a few high-minded professors, the matter would have little meaning for the rest of us. But economics does profoundly influence every corner of our lives. Thus, if there’s anything students should learn in their proverbial Economics 101, it is what defines progress in economics. Read more

@Academia and Public, Berlin: Students as model publics

The transatlantic conference has been moving targets: sociology went first, then economics, then history, today it was political science and international relations. While sociologists and economists had a muscular dialogue on the first day, quickly resolved over lunch with familiar scholarly ethic. The historians closed the day, soft spoken and monorcordic reading their speeches but dropping a bomb: the global public sphere is gone, and there is no longer a past, just an extended present with everyone obsessed with personal, ethnic, identitary history but no real curiosity beyond. So it was appropriate that political scientists try something else, and abandoning the public sphere altogether the discussion today has been about the crises of the University. Read more