Death of the history of economics?

Posted: 14 January 2011 in Uncategorized
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Is the history of economic thought dead?

Yes, in the sense that all the mainstream doctoral programs in economics in the United States long ago eliminated courses—whether required or elective—in the history of economic thought. Most academic economists receive no training in the history of the discipline (or, for that matter, in economic history). Therefore, in their view, the history of economic thought is dead.

David Warsh did detect one “portent of change” at the recent American Economic Association meetings in Denver, in a session on “rethinking the core” of graduate education.

James Heckman, of the University of Chicago, endorsed the possibility of restoring to the graduate curriculum high-level elective courses in the history of economic thought. “People in the past were smart and they made mistakes and had insights,” he said afterwards. “We have sometimes forgotten the insights and we have sometimes repeated the same mistakes.”David Laidler, of the University of Western Ontario, among the foremost historians of thought of the present day, noted that since ideas periodically disappear and reappear according to the self-estimate of the times, it might be a disservice to give students the impression that all they needed to know was contained in the pages of a current text.

But then at the end of his post he drops a bombshell: the University of Amsterdam has announced it is closing its Program in the History and Methodology of Economics.

That decision certainly represents the triumph of the death of the history of economic thought.

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Comments
  1. Jay says:

    “When the economists say that present-day relations – the relations of bourgeois production – are natural, they imply that these are the relations in which wealth is created and productive forces developed in conformity with the laws of nature. These relations therefore are themselves natural laws independent of the influence of time. They are eternal laws which must always govern society. Thus, there has been history, but there is no longer any. There has been history, since there were the institutions of feudalism, and in these institutions of feudalism we find quite different relations of production from those of bourgeois society, which the economists try to pass off as natural and as such, eternal.” – Karl Marx

  2. [...] history of economic thought is dead. The question is, should it be brought back to [...]

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