For a plu­ral­ist edu­ca­tion, come to Kingston

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I have just accepted an offer to become Head of the School of Eco­nom­ics, His­tory and Pol­i­tics at Kingston Uni­ver­sity in Lon­don. I will take up the appoint­ment in time for the Autumn term, which starts on Sep­tem­ber 23rd.

Kingston will respond pos­i­tively to calls from stu­dents for gen­uine reform of eco­nom­ics education—like those made by the Post-Crash Eco­nom­ics Soci­ety in Man­ches­ter, and the Inter­na­tional Stu­dent Ini­tia­tive for Plu­ral­ism in Eco­nom­ics (which was launched only days ago).

These stu­dent calls for gen­uine reform are timely, because though there are some ini­tia­tives for reform, aca­d­e­mic eco­nom­ics has, if any­thing, become more hos­tile to crit­i­cism of the main­stream and to pre­sen­ta­tion of alter­na­tive per­spec­tives than it was before the cri­sis.

Kingston is dif­fer­ent. It already has a cur­ricu­lum that teaches both main­stream and non-ortho­dox approaches. We will develop this fur­ther in the com­ing years to pro­vide an edu­ca­tion that is mind­ful of the need for eco­nom­ics to be hum­ble after its many fail­ures.

These include not merely the fail­ure of Neo­clas­si­cal eco­nom­ics to fore­see the finan­cial crisis—and its con­tri­bu­tion to that cri­sis by cham­pi­oning the finan­cial prod­ucts that made the cri­sis so severe—but also the fail­ure of Marx­ian eco­nom­ics to fore­see the many prob­lems that led to the col­lapse of cen­trally planned economies two decades ear­lier.

The guid­ing prin­ci­ples in devel­op­ing Kingston’s approach will be, firstly, that there is no “right” school of eco­nomic thought today, so that all schools of thought deserve to be taught; and sec­ondly, that noth­ing in eco­nom­ics is sacred, so that dif­fer­ent approaches should be taught “warts and all”—with their weak­nesses noted as well as their strengths.

For exam­ple, as well as teach­ing the “Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Agent” mod­els that dom­i­nate Neo­clas­si­cal macro­eco­nom­ics, we’ll cover why the Sonnenschein–Mantel–Debreu the­o­rem under­mines these mod­els, as Alan Kir­man elo­quently argued back in 1989:

If we are to progress fur­ther we may well be forced to the­o­ries in terms of groups who have col­lec­tively coher­ent behav­ior. Thus demand and expen­di­ture func­tions if they are to be set against real­ity must be defined at some rea­son­ably high level of aggre­ga­tion. The idea that we should start at the level of the iso­lated indi­vid­ual is one which we may well have to aban­don. (Alan Kir­man 1989, “The Intrin­sic Lim­its of Mod­ern Eco­nomic The­ory: The Emperor has No Clothes”)

We’ll give the same treat­ment to other schools of thought as well.

We’ll also teach eco­nom­ics in the con­text of other social sciences—something that the Post-Crash Eco­nom­ics Soci­ety man­i­festo has called for:

the study of ethics, pol­i­tics and his­tory are almost com­pletely absent from the syl­labus. We pro­pose that eco­nom­ics can­not be prop­erly under­stood with all these aspects excluded. (Relearn­ing Eco­nom­ics)

The Inter­na­tional Stu­dent Ini­tia­tive for Plu­ral­ism in Eco­nom­ics puts a sim­i­lar case:

Finally, eco­nom­ics edu­ca­tion should include inter­dis­ci­pli­nary approaches and allow stu­dents to engage with other social sci­ences and the human­i­ties. Eco­nom­ics is a social sci­ence; com­plex eco­nomic phe­nom­ena can sel­dom be under­stood if pre­sented in a vac­uum, removed from their soci­o­log­i­cal, polit­i­cal, and his­tor­i­cal con­texts. To prop­erly dis­cuss eco­nomic pol­icy, stu­dents should under­stand the broader social impacts and moral impli­ca­tions of eco­nomic deci­sions. (ISIPE Open Let­ter, May 5th 2014)

This is some­thing that Kingston is uniquely placed to be able to achieve since it is, to my knowl­edge, the only School of Eco­nom­ics, His­tory and Pol­i­tics in exis­tence.

So if you want a crit­i­cal, plu­ral­ist edu­ca­tion in eco­nom­ics (whether as an under­grad­u­ate or post­grad­u­ate), and one which puts eco­nom­ics in the con­text of his­tory and pol­i­tics, join me in Kingston.

Kingston’s Economics, History & Politics Programs

Undergraduate

Applied Eco­nom­ics BA (Hons) joint hon­ours only

Busi­ness Eco­nom­ics BSc (Hons) sin­gle hon­ours

Eco­nom­ics BSc (Hons) sin­gle hon­ours

Finan­cial Eco­nom­ics BSc (Hons) sin­gle hon­ours

His­tory BA (Hons) sin­gle or joint hon­ours

Pol­i­tics and Inter­na­tional Rela­tions BA (Hons) sin­gle hon­ours

Pol­i­tics BA (Hons) joint hon­ours only

Postgraduate

Eco­nom­ics

His­tory and Pol­i­tics

About Steve Keen

I am Professor of Economics and Head of Economics, History and Politics at Kingston University London, and a long time critic of conventional economic thought. As well as attacking mainstream thought in Debunking Economics, I am also developing an alternative dynamic approach to economic modelling. The key issue I am tackling here is the prospect for a debt-deflation on the back of the enormous private debts accumulated globally, and our very low rate of inflation.
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