We Can Blog it!

The more reflexive mode brought by the financial crisis to macroeconomics made economists more outspoken about methodological, historical and sociological issues: how have we come to the DSGE dogma? What are its limitations? How can we produce alternative knowledge? Do publishing practices favor a “monolithic” thinking, and if so, how can we change it? What about the graduate training in economics?

It is interesting that blogs became a more popular way of reflecting on these kinds of issues. I’m not saying that macroeconomists blog mostly about these issues: like several microeconomists, in their blogs we find a lot of “applied” discussions, here on economic policy, taxes, inequality, growth, etc. But in contrast to microeconomists, macroeconomists seem more willing to blog about the history of their field, as our fellow blogger Beatrice Cherrier recently wrote about. I have argued elsewhere that contrary to a well established cannonical history of microeconomics, macroeconomics is often seen as made of disagreements between rival “schools of thought,” with a few consensus periods (as the “neoclassical synthesis” and the “new neoclassical synthesis”). As a result, macroeconomists seem relatively more open to engage in “historical arguments.”

While historical (and methodological) questions have been more popular recently, in blogs by Paul Krugman, Simon Wren-Lewis, Noah Smith, and Chris House, for example (all mentioned by Cherrier), historians (and methodologists) have had little participation in this debate. And important issues come up with the practice of blogging about the history of macroeconomics at the same time that very limited space in economics journals is allowed to historical analyses (and there is a quite selected group of economists who are called upon to present the history of the field in the few articles published in economics journals and volumes edited by practicing economists). Blog is a short-attention-span technology, where giving opinions without a careful and detailed analysis is not uncommon. Would blogging impoverish the quality of historical discussion, becoming more and more an expression of one’s own ideas and prejudices? On the other hand, it reached out the youngsters in an important way.

These and other related topics motivated the proposal of a round table to take place in the coming meeting of the History of Economics Society (HES), in Montreal (June 20-22). There, a groups of historians and a macroeconomist will discuss some of these issues: Steve Ambler(Université du Québec à Montréal), Kevin Hoover (Duke University), Marcel Boumans (Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam), and myself. A promise of a great discussion!

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