On the passing away of Victoria Chick
We are greatly saddened to note the passing of Victoria (Vicky) Chick on January 15, 2023. Victoria was a vital force in many ways - intellectual, personal, and as an activist member of the academic community. She was an inspiration, mentor, and dear friend to many. She will be sorely missed while leaving behind a powerful legacy. We send our heartfelt condolences to her family.
Victoria’s academic life took much of its character from the force of her unique personality. She was bold in building up and propagating a strong case against mainstream economics at a time when not many were as prepared, or as able, to do so, inspiring a devoted following. She was forthright in her views. She was also notably selfless and generous in the time and energy she gave to helping other academics. She had continued to engage actively with research, most recently addressing her abiding interest in the concept of equilibrium (Chick 2022). At the same time, a major last exercise was to motivate and co-edit the Handbook of Macroeconomic Methodology (Chick, Jespersen and Tieben, eds, forthcoming) to which she contributed a chapter on ‘Open and Closed Systems’ and another jointly-authored with Jesper Jespersen on ‘Holism and Fallacy of Composition’. Questions of macroeconomic methodology were close to her heart.
A continuous thread running through Victoria’s long, productive, and highly influential career in economics was a focus on the differing methodological approaches underpinning debates over mainstream economics and heterodox alternatives. The open but robust engagement in pluralist debate that characterized her academic career was forged during her formative years at Berkeley and the London School of Economics (LSE). Victoria was born in Berkeley and pursued her studies at Bachelor’s and Master’s levels there. She experienced robust high-level debate within the eclectic Berkeley economics department, forming a long-lasting friendship with Hyman Minsky who had introduced her to Keynes’s General Theory. Victoria’s lively independence of mind was further stimulated as a graduate student at the LSE where at that time the focus of debates was methodology, measurement, and testing. There too she engaged enthusiastically in high-level debate, encountering a range of approaches to economics. Her growing dissatisfaction with both sides in the Monetarist-Keynesian debates of the time redirected her focus instead to a close reading of The General Theory. This focus was to provide the core of many of her contributions throughout her career, establishing her position as a leading authority on Keynes.
Victoria took a post at University College London (UCL) in 1963 and was promoted to Professor in 1993. She retired in 2001. At UCL she developed her own approach to monetary economics and macroeconomics in the tradition of Keynes in relation to other (more dominant) approaches. She was encouraged in this by meeting a group of like-minded economists at the 1971 meeting of the AEA in New Orleans at which Joan Robinson had given her ‘Second Crisis in Economics’ lecture and had proposed the adoption of the term Post-Keynesian. The publication in 1973 of The Theory of Monetary Policy, based on Victoria’s lectures at UCL, was to establish her international reputation as an important figure in Post-Keynesian economics. This reputation was cemented by her 1983 book setting out a fresh, innovative, and authoritative interpretation of Keynes: Macroeconomics After Keynes: A Reconsideration of the General Theory. Along with these milestone publications Victoria continued to publish a wide range of path-breaking contributions, too numerous to detail here, primarily in monetary economics, macroeconomics, and methodology, and all motivated by her close understanding of The General Theory.
Victoria was the quintessential scholar, fearless in putting forward controversial arguments which were closely argued and meticulously researched and displaying an outstanding intellect. As a result, Victoria attracted a large and devoted number of followers worldwide, starting in the 1970s when she was an ‘underground’ figure identified as offering an alternative to mainstream economics. Many came to study with her at UCL and then proceeded to extend her influence further in their home countries. Over the years she was invited to teach at a wide international range of universities. More recently Victoria enthusiastically engaged with the young scholar movement offering mentoring and encouragement, particularly on the issue of curricular reform. She was closely associated with Rethinking Economics whose obituary refers to her as “a titan in her field [who] brought so much kindness and humor to her work, especially to the keen students that shared many of her critiques for mainstream economics.” This represented just the latest stage in Victoria’s active engagement with the discipline of economics through a variety of institutions. One of her most important institutional contributions was to set up the Economic and Social Research Council-funded Post-Keynesian Economics Study Group (now the Post-Keynesian Economics Society) in the UK in 1988 with Philip Arestis, providing a welcome and highly-productive forum for a broad church of participants from the UK and around the world. Later she was also to take an active role in the Association for Heterodox Economics.
It is a notable characteristic of Victoria’s theoretical work that, like Keynes, she had a forward-looking focus, considering the implications for theory of a changing environment. Thus for example in Macroeconomics After Keynes she considered the importance of context for interpreting Keynes’s theory, such as for analyzing inflationary conditions as well as depression. Later, Victoria gave an address entitled “On the relevance of The General Theory at 80: Economic Change and Economic Theory” to the 2016 conference celebrating the 80th anniversaries of the publication of Keynes’s General Theory and of her own birth. Here she brought Keynesian theory forward to the twenty-first century in a typically path-breaking way (Chick 2018a). Victoria’s focus on context was informed by her experience working at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the Reserve Bank of Australia, and as the Bundesbank Professor of International Monetary Economics. Indeed, the impact of Victoria’s scholarship was not limited to academia. It was felt also in policy circles as a result of her active promotion of social justice, campaigning for example in the UK against unwarranted austerity policies.
But Victoria’s life wasn’t all about economics. Her second contribution to the 2016 conference, on “The Economics of Enough: A Future for Capitalism or a New Way of Living?” (co-authored with Alan Freeman), addressed Keynes’s goal of promoting the good life. Victoria’s own life was a good life. In addition to her passion for economics, she derived great enjoyment from the arts, notably but not only music (including her own singing with the Highgate choral society) and art, and was hugely knowledgeable about each. Throughout, she derived tremendous enjoyment from engagement with her many friends.
Chick, V (1973) The Theory of Monetary Policy. London: Gray-Mills.
Chick, V (1983) Macroeconomics After Keynes: A Reconsideration of the General Theory. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Chick, V (2018a) “On the Relevance of The General Theory at 80: Economic Change and Economic Theory” in S Dow, J Jespersen and G Tily (eds), The General Theory and Keynes for the 21st Century. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, ch. 1.
Chick, V and A Freeman (2018b) “The Economics of Enough: A Future for Capitalism or a New Way of Living?” in S Dow, J Jespersen and G Tily (eds), Money, Method and Post-Keynesian Economics for the 21st Century. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, ch. 12.
Chick, V. (2022) “Should Equilibrium Be Abandoned by Heterodox Economists?” in I Negru and P Hawkins (eds), Economic Methodology, History and Pluralism. London: Routledge, ch. 7.
Chick, V (forthcoming 2023) “Open and Closed Systems” in V Chick, J Jespersen and B Tieben (eds), Handbook of Macroeconomic Methodology. London: Routledge, ch. 2,7.
Chick, V and Jespersen (forthcoming 2023) “Holism and Fallacy of Composition” in V Chick, J Jespersen and B Tieben (eds), Handbook of Macroeconomic Methodology. London: Routledge, ch. 1.5.
Keynes, J M (1936) The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. London: Macmillan.