Rethinking Economics, the Manchester Post-Crash Economics Society and the Cambridge Society for Economic Pluralism (CSEP) met with MPs and economists at Portcullis House on Weds 5th February.
Rafe Martyn (CSEP), Maeve Cohen (Post-Crash) and Yuan Yang (Rethinking Economics) spoke about the history of the groups, the problem with a narrow focus on neoclassical economics, our position on curriculum reform and the INET CORE Project, and the national and international campaigns for curriculum reform.
About the Groups
The first Rethinking Economics Conference was organised at Tubingen University, Germany in 2012. Rethinking Economics UK was then established in 2013. With an INET YSI grant, they ran the Rethinking Economics Conference at Birkbeck College and LSE, London in 2013 and a smaller, parallel conference in Tubingen. Rethinking Economics is now a network of groups with conferences planned in London and New York in 2014.
Post-Crash started in Manchester at the beginning of the 2012-13 academic year. They have organised speakers such as Steve Keen, run a heterodox lecture series alongside an alternative economics module and seen similar groups start up in other universities.
CSEP was founded in November 2011. The society’s inaugural event was a packed talk by Sheila Dow in March 2012. Since then CSEP has hosted academics from inside and outside Cambridge, started reading groups, a student debating league and a ‘NOT in the Curriculum’ programme that introduces undergraduates to some neglects of neoclassical economics.
A Lack of Pluralism
The Financial Crash in 2008 was a systemic crisis for mainstream economics. Five years later the debate has a distinct lack of economic alternatives or narratives: the debate can be exclusionary and misleading. This systemic crisis extends beyond universities and into the public and political debate surrounding the economy.
This monoculture is damaging when the public relies on experts to mediate economic discussion: economists have huge influence over the public narrative. The state of the economy is of central importance to society, which requires us to frame the debate critically and question the foundations, assumptions and practices.
The International Campaign
We are campaigning to diversify and demystify economics, and to provoke public debate. We are collaborating with PEPS-Economie and the German Pluralist Economics Network who have previously published curriculum reform proposals. For example, Plurale Oekonomik published an Open Letter in 2012 calling on the German Economic Association for curriculum reform. Academics, such as Victoria Chick, have made similar calls (see Denis, 2009).
These manifestos share similar points: having better links with real-world problems; less dominance by mathematical methods; questioning of ethical assumptions and the social responsibility of economists; more humility, self-awareness and critical reflection in their research. The central reform is for theoretical and methodological pluralism in the discipline, such as the inclusion of economic history, the history of economic thought and links to other social sciences.
"As a postgraduate, I attended a UK research conference recently that asked how financial models can be re-interpreted in light of the 2008 crisis, yet hardly any of the attendees were economists. The behavioural economist presented decades of his research which told an inconvenient truth about the profession: that the micro-foundations project is a failure. Not only is the 'sum greater than the parts', but human behaviour is neither rational nor optimal. In any other profession his empirical work would be celebrated as ground-breaking and innovative, yet he told us he had been sidelined by his profession. This is why we need a more open, pluralistic approach to economics'
Denis, A. (ed.) (2009), ‘Pluralism in economics education’, Special Edition of the International Review of Economics Education, 8(2), 23-40