Course Outline ------------- Fall 2013


The Development of Modern Economics

Professor E. Roy Weintraub

Office: Social Sciences 07D

Phone and Voicemail: 660-1838; email:



"Nobody can separate the `internal' history of science from the `external' history of its allies. The former does not count as history at all. At best it is court historiography, at worst Legends of the Saints. The latter is not history of `science', it is history." (Bruno Latour, The Pasteurization of France, p. 218.)

This class generally concerns the history of 20th century economics, focusing attention on the development of the discipline as a mainstream discourse in the United States. One of the particular concerns of the course will be to suggest the ways, and the history of how, a broad and varied set of approaches and practices early in the 20th century evolved, by late in the 20th century, to a single mainstream, now called neoclassical economics or some such variant, and a variety of marginalized discourses mostly critical of neoclassical economics.

The seminar will meet twice a week. There will be required material to be read each week for the once a week classroom meeting. All required reading is in either a) the paperback The Ordinary Business of Life (OBL) by Backhouse, b)  E-reserve at the course’s Sakai site, or linked to “Resources” on the course’s Sakai site.

Course Requirements: Each week each student will prepare a one to two page typed response to that week’s non-textbook readings, to be turned in at the end of that classroom meeting. Those responses will be the basis for the seminar discussion. 30% of each student’s course grade will be based on those weekly response papers, and participation in the seminar discussion. Additionally, as befits a course with “R” and “W” designations, students undertake a research project, which will result in a final paper or web document. Students work in pairs as part of that class project. Resources will include the Social Science Citation Index, JSTOR (the online searchable data base of economics journals), Silver Platter and other tools (and especially archival materials in the Economists’ Papers Project).

The focus of the course is the class project/paper. In Fall 2013 the class project will be an exploration of the public role of economists. Pairs of students – a co-author writing team - will work together on the research project using published materials, interviews, archival sources, and so on.  For Fall 2013 each pair will examine the public career of one of several economists who played interesting roles in public affairs in the first half of the 20th century: Kenneth J. Arrow, Calvin Bryce Hoover, Martin Bronfenbrenner, Frank W. Fetter, Franco Modigliani, and Arthur I. Bloomfield.  These economists’ papers are all available in the Economists Papers Project. It is my intention as well to make sure that very successful projects can be developed, via independent study in Spring 2012, into honors papers to secure graduation with distinction in economics. The paper grade will constitute 70% of each student’s final course grade.

I will work closely with you, functioning as your research director, to facilitate development of the project. I will meet with each co-author pair at least every second week in tutorial sessions in my office so that I may assess your progress and guide the work that remains to be done. These consultations will specifically involve working with you on successive drafts attending to the structure and argument and language, in short the rhetoric, of the final document as is appropriate for a course that carries the "writing" designation. Your attendance at the seminars and the tutorials is required. Unapproved absences will result in a “0” for the participation grade.

The final paper will be turned in on the last day of class.

Weekly discussions are based on common readings to be done by all class members before the specific classroom session:        

Week 1.         First Class Meeting.  Information session; discussion of class project, reading responses, class resources, etc.

Week 2.         English Economic Thought Circa 1900. Required Reading: Chapter 8 (OBL); Chap 9, "Economic Orthodoxies", in Robert Skidelsky, John Maynard Keynes, 1986 (e-reserve). {Background Reading: Chap 2, "Cambridge Civilisation", in Robert Skidelsky, John Maynard Keynes, 1986; Chap 8, "The Marginal Revolution" in Mark Blaug; Chap 4, "Leon Walras" in Bruna Ingrao and Giorgio Israel, The Invisible Hand, 1990.}

Week 3.         The Development of American Economics. Required Reading: Chapter 9 (OBL); Bradley Bateman’s "Clearing the Ground: The Demise of the Social Gospel Movement and the Rise of Neoclassicism in American Economics" in Mary Morgan and Malcolm Rutherford’s From Interwar Pluralism to Postwar Neoclassicism (1998) (e-reserve); Malcolm Rutherford’s “American Institutional Economics in the Interwar Period” in Samuels, Biddle, and Davis’s A Companion to the History of Economic Thought (2003) (Sakai Resource). {Background Reading: "Marginalism and Historicism in Economics: Chapter 6" of Dorothy Ross’s The Origins of American Social Science (1991) (e-reserve); Bradley Bateman’s “Reflections on the Secularization of American Economics” (Duke Library e-journal) Journal of the History of Economic Thought 30, 1, March 2008; William Baumol’s “On Method in U.S. Economics a Century Earlier” American Economic Review, 75 (6) 1985}

Week 4.         Business Cycles. Required Reading: Chapter 10 (OBL); Chapters 3 & 4 in Mary S. Morgan’s The History of Econometric Ideas (1990). (e-reserve) {Background Reading: (business cycles); Judy L. Klein’s Statistical Visions in Time (1997); Kyun Kim’s Equilibrium Business Cycle Theory (1988}.

Week 5.         Keynes and Revolution? Required Reading: Chapter 7 of Francesco Louça’s The Years of High Econometrics (Sakai Resource); “The General Theory of Employment” by J. M. Keynes: The Quarterly Journal of Economics. Vol. 51, No. 2 (Feb., 1937), pp. 209-223 (Sakai Resource). {Background Reading: Chapter 15 of Skidelsky’s John Maynard Keynes, Volume 2 (e-reserve); L. Klein’s 1947 The Keynesian Revolution, excerpts Sakai; Patinkin’s 1965 Money, Interest, and Prices, excerpts Sakai.}

Week 6.         General Equilibrium and The Neoclassical Synthesis. Required Reading: Chapter 11 (OBL); Chapter 6 in Weintraub’s General Equilibrium Analysis: Studies in Appraisal, 1985, (e-reserve); Chapter 4 of E. R. Weintraub’s Microfoundations (1979) (Sakai Resource) {Background Reading: von Neumann (1945) "A Model of General Economic Equilibrium" Review of Economic Studies, 13, pp. 1-9 (translation from the German 1937 Ergebnisse paper) Sakai; McKenzie (1954) "On Equilibrium in Graham's Model of World Trade and Other Competitive Systems", Econometrica 22, pp. 147-161 Sakai; Arrow and Debreu (1954) "Existence of an Equilibrium for a Competitive Economy" Econometrica 22, pp. 265-290. Sakai; }

Week 7.         Economics and World War II. Required Reading: Chapters 13, Backhouse (OBL); Leonard, Chaps 12-13 of Von Neumann, Morgenstern, and the Creation of Game Theory (Sakai Resource){Background Reading: Judy Klein (2011) "How I learned to Stop Worrying and Start Satisficing" Working Paper. Sakai; von Neumann, J. (1928). "Zur Theorie der Gesellschaftsspiele." Mathematische Annalen 100: 295-320 (English version: "On the Theory of Games of Strategy," trans. Sonya Bargmann. In Contributions to the Theory of Games, vol 4, edited by A .W. Tucker and R. D. Luce (Princeton, 1959), pp.13-42 Sakai; von Neumann, J. and O. Morgenstern (1944). The Theory of Games and Economic Behavior. Princeton, NJ, Introduction, pp.1-43. Sakai}

Week 8.         The Modern Economist: Engineer or Expert? Required Reading: Mary Morgan’s “Economics” in Porter’s and Ross’ Cambridge History of Science Volume 7 (e-reserve); and Chapter 6 of Michael Bernstein’s A Perilous Progress (e-reserve).

Week 9.         The Economics Profession in the U.S., Britain, and France.  Required Reading: Introduction and Chapter 1 of Marion Fourcade’s Economists and Societies: Discipline and Profession in the United States, Britain, and France 1890s to 1990s (2009) (Sakai Resource)).

Week 10.     Economics among the Social Sciences. Required Reading: Backhouse and Fontaine’s “Introduction: Contexts of Postwar Social Science” (Sakai Resource).

Week 11.     Neoliberalism. Required Reading: Backhouse’s “The Rise of Free Market Economics” in Medema and Boettke’s The Role of Government in the History of Economic Thought (2005) (Sakai Resource); Philip Mirowski (2009) "Postface: Defining Neoliberalism" in Philip Mirowski and Dieter Plahwe (eds.) The Road from Mont Pelerin, pp. 417-455, Sakai. .

Week 12.     Heterodoxies. Mata’s “Migrations and Boundary Work: Harvard, Radical Economists, and the Committee on Political Discrimination”.

Week 13.     Historiography. Required Reading: Prologue, in Backhouse (OBL); Weintraub’s “How Should We Write the History of 20th Century Economics?(Sakai Resource); Weintraub (2011) "Lionel W. McKenzie and the Proof of the Existence of a Competitive Equilibrium" Journal of Economic Perspectives. Sakai.

Week 14.     Extra Tutorials on Final Paper