Integrating Historical Perspectives into Modern Economics
Edited by Daniela Tavasci and Luigi Ventimiglia
This chapter focuses on money and banking in the history of economic thought, to show that the nature of money and the role of banks have been essentially misunderstood in a number of strands of thought. This has led to a variety of monetary policy interventions, both in economic history and at the time of writing, that were not (and could not be) up to the task. The conclusion asserts that it is essential that the properties of money and banking are understood by teachers and researchers, as well as policy makers in the economic domain.
During his teaching career, the author realized that a logical flow needed to be adopted in teaching financial economics in order to bring to life those modules that students found hard to understand behind the simple mechanical application. This chapter shows how teaching with historical perspectives (THP) is about contextualizing the teaching of a subject both in terms of the genesis of a model or theory, and in terms of its development and evolution. THP provides a framework that allows students to group models together within the same school of thought and discuss the formation of new paradigms. As a result, students are able to easily use models that are relevant to their employability.
In 2004 the author founded, and taught till retirement, the main second-year economic theory course at the newly established Department of Political Economy at the University of Sydney: Economic Theories of Modern Capitalism, code ECOP2011. The Department, which was formed in 2000, originated from a split within the traditional one in the 1970s. Although its main focus is on issues and not on analytical approaches to economics, its creation provided the opportunity for establishing a mainstay course based on a comprehensive historical and analytical view of economics from its modern inception.
Teaching the history of economic thought is fast becoming an important topic of debate and discussion within economics teaching. But the use of historical perspectives in teaching is also an issue of much wider relevance across higher education. The motivations and challenges of implementing this kind of approach are specific to each discipline; however, there are things that we can learn from a range of subjects that can help inform teaching the history of economic thought. This chapter explores the debates around teaching with historical perspectives in a range of subjects, before focusing on some of the practical approaches used by teachers, and exploring the impact of this pedagogical approach on students.
The author presents ideas on using history of thought to illuminate economic theory in the teaching of introductory economics. In this, he draws on his experience as a life-long observer of economics teaching and from 35 years teaching Introduction to Microeconomics, first at Tufts University and then at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He suggests how the study of history of thought can enhance learning both for those who follow the dominant orthodoxy and those who criticize it. Furthermore, as pedagogy, teaching history of thought can help students learn, by maintaining their interest and by giving them a deeper and richer understanding of economic theory.
In most universities in the UK, history of economic thought, when it is taught, is taught either as a specialist or an optional module in the second and third year of the degree. This contribution argues in favour of introducing elements from the history of economic thought into the first-year introductory economics module. The author looks at five reasons why this is an important change in developing curricula that teach economics through its history and evolution.
Mainstream economics frequently reproduces itself by excluding alternative perspectives from undergraduate curricula. Challenges also arise from the unwillingness of lecturers to experiment in their teaching as a result of institutional pressures related to students’ satisfaction and, in general, to issues around the commodification of higher education. This chapter outlines an innovative approach to introducing alternative economic perspectives into economics curricula through a reflective redesign of a History of Economic Thought module taught at the School of Economics and Finance of Queen Mary University of London. An account of this learning and teaching experience is accompanied by the findings of a small research project focused on the students’ experience of their exposure to pluralistic economics.
The ‘theses’ published in this chapter were written for the first time 15 years ago, then rewritten more than a decade ago as an intervention in a round table: some updating has been done for the present publication. They have had a long gestation: in fact, the maturation of the theses covers the author’s entire life in the university, first as a student and then as a teacher.