“None of us saw that coming” – Guest Post from Dr Jamie Morgan

Ofcourse, thats not quite right. Many of us discussed the unsustainable levels of debt that built up prior to the 2007/8 financial crisis and some of us subscribe to theories that stress the essential role of crisis in capitalist development. However,  it is also true that the adherence of mainstream economics to the idea of ‘efficient markets’ means that many in the field were genuinely surprised.  That suggests that the ideas that underpinned mainstream economics research and teaching are at best in need of serious modification. This has resulted in several student movements to revise mainstream economics curricula.  The guest post below from our own Dr Jamie Morgan summarises one of these campaigns.  Hopefully, much of what it contains is already familiar to our students who are introduced to heterodox ideas from the start, not least by Jamie himself.

The student organization Post-Crash economics society (PCES) has been doing important work in campaigning for reform in the content and teaching of modern economics. As part of this work they have recently published a report RELEARNING ECONOMICS (http://www.post-crasheconomics.com/economics-education-and-unlearning/ ). They are an organization you might want to be involved in.

Post-Crash in their own words http://www.post-crasheconomics.com:

Guardian Cartoon

Image Courtesy of PCES – http://www.post-crasheconomics.com/

We were inspired to start the society when hearing about the 2011 Bank of England Conference – ‘Are Economics Graduates Fit for Purpose?’. At this event, leading economists from the public and private sphere came together to discuss whether economics undergraduates were being taught the right things in light of the Financial Crisis. This event, of almost unprecedented magnitude, had global repercussions. However, as the conference took place its affect on the syllabus was minimal at most. It was not immediately thought that the crash called for a new approach within economics. However, the BoE conference called this conclusion into question.

We in Manchester were intrigued and excited to hear about this event. The economics we were learning seemed separate from the economic reality that the world was facing, and devoid from the crisis that had made many of us interested in economics to begin with. Through our own research, we began to learn more about economics. We examined how its mainstream had begun to be dominated by a certain kind of economics, often referred to as neoclassical, at the expense of other approaches. It was decided to set up a society that would bring this discussion to Manchester.

We began with small, informal meetings mid way through the 2012/13 academic year. We have grown, and as of today we are vibrant student society at the forefront of debate discussing how economists should be educated. We have appeared in newspapers such as The Guardian and Washington Post, 1200 members subscribe to our Facebook group, had over 400 people attend one of our events, and regularly bring world class economists to Manchester to take part in an integral discussion. We are currently in the process of finishing a report on the state of economics education at Manchester which we intend to publish shortly. However, this is just the start. We will ensure that this society will become a permanent fixture on the Manchester landscape in the years to come. It will continue to provoke discussion between students and staff about what economics is, what it should be and how it should be taught.

Moreover, at Post-Crash we are committed to campaigning for a change in the syllabus itself. Whilst we believe events and discussion are extremely valuable, most students won’t receive the economics education they require unless the content of their degrees change. As a society, we are committed to pluralism within economics. We believe that the mainstream within the discipline has excluded all dissenting opinion, and the crisis is arguably the ultimate price of this exclusion. Alternative approaches such as Post-Keynesian, Marxist, and Austrian economics (as well as many others) have been marginalised. The same can be said of the history of the discipline. Students are routinely taught that only one form of economics is ‘scientific’ and ‘correct’. Complacency was therefore sure to arise, and the failure of so many mainstream economists to see the crisis appears to vindicate these worries. We hope to challenge this outlook that credits only one form of economics, and want to create an academic environment within economics that never rests on its laurels, and invites intrigue and critical thinking from students.

One of our main aims is to represent students at Manchester who are frustrated. Whilst you can support us by signing our petitions and attending our events, we would also love to hear your own personal frustrations and the ideas that they have led to. We therefore strongly encourage you to attend our open meetings held once a month, where you can get involved with an exciting and important movement. Post-Crash Economics is committed to make this a national movement, as this is a problem that exists on a national scale. As multiple reports on economics have shown, syllabuses at nearly all British universities are close to identical. Other students at different institutions also appear to be unhappy, and have started similar societies at Cambridge, UCL, LSE and Sheffield. We hope to see many more soon.

Finally, if you’re an economics student at another university who wants to join in this with campaign and start up your own society, please get in contact with us and we’ll do everything we can to help. Economics could and should be better than it currently is, and that’s why all of us need to call for change.



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