ISIPE, ONE YEAR LATER
5 MAY 2015 JOINT STATEMENT
One year ago, we founded the International Student Initiative for Pluralism in Economics (ISIPE) as a coalition of 65 Economics student groups from 30 countries; today we are 82 student groups. There has been some progress in the last year, but a lot remains to be done to bring about a fundamental change in the teaching of economics. That is why today we are staging the first GLOBAL ACTION DAY FOR PLURALISM IN ECONOMICS with 35 events happening in 14 countries on the same day.
Over the last year, in many ISIPE member groups we have been working to change the teaching of economics at our universities. Globally, ISIPE has fullfilled a vital role as a global facilitator of local progress. Last September, many ISIPE group representatives met in person for the first time in a General Assembly in Tubingen, Germany. Since then, groups have shared material, information and motivation for our goal of reforming the teaching of economics. Furthermore, we have started common projects at the international level - for example, an online forum for pluralist economics dialogue and a worldwide survey about the (lack of) plurality of undergraduate economics programmes, giving evidence in support of our claims that change is needed. Results will be released in the next months.
On a local level ISIPE member groups have in the past year organized conferences with hundreds of participants in London, New York, Vienna and Manchester. We have held workshops at conferences in Amsterdam and Paris. We have worked with academic and professional economists, central bankers, politicians, government agencies, Nobel laureates and with mainstream as well as non-mainstream economics associations. And most importantly, we have regularly held weekly student-run seminars, lecture series, presentations and panel discussions all over the world at our universities.
Here is a short overview of the developments in each country in the past year:
IN AUSTRIA, students at the Vienna University for Economics and Business founded the Society of Pluralism in Economics Vienna. Together with the student organisation Roter Börsenkrach, at the University of Vienna, and VrauWL, a collective of female economics students and professionals, they have been vigorously pushing for more pluralism in economics. For 5 years now, these groups have been organizing independent lectures and hosting academic events covering heterodox economic schools of thought and marginalized economics subjects at various universities.
Composed of members of student representative bodies, of economic research facilities and of political institutions, the Society for Pluralism in Economics Vienna has influenced curricular design and hiring decisions, as well as contributed to the selection of elective classes, in order to allow for more pluralism in the Viennese economics programs.
The Society’s two major events of the last year included a panel discussion (October 2014) titled “Reality, Relevance, Models - What does Economics need?” and the 1st Vienna Conference on Pluralism in Economics (10 - 12. April 2015) - a raging success, attracting over 300 participants and presenters from around Europe.
IN AUSTRALIA, the PPE Society is continuing to offer tutorials to students which allow an interdisciplinary approach to economics to be undertaken, as well as an introduction to pluralism in economics.
IN QUEBEC (CANADA), the student network for pluralist economics (MÉQEPÉ) was consolidated with new students from McGill University and from Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM). Professors Jonathan Nitzan and Marc Lavoie were invited to give talks about heterodox paradigms. A one-day conference on “Economics at the University: Towards an Inclusive and Pluralist Teaching” was held on April 30th 2015 in Montreal, at which more than 60 professors, students and community organizers discussed strategies for the Quebec movement. Later this month, MÉQEPÉ will be holding a session on reforming economics at the Canadian Economics Conference (May 28-29-30th).
IN FRANCE, PEPS published the article “The case for pluralism: What French undergraduate Economics teaching is all about and how it can be improved” in The International Journal of Pluralism and Economics Education (vol 5, no. 4, 2014). We wrote a review of the INET-funded COREecon textbook which had been at times self-presented as a response to the ISIPE claims. Our conclusion is that it is not a pluralist curricula but it goes in the good direction in having an object-oriented approach. It could be the textbook of the mainstream part of a pluralist Economics undergraduate syllabus.
We created our first local group at Université Paris Dauphine in order to have a local and therefore more concrete action. We are carrying out an in-depth study of the undergraduate syllabus there - more detailed than the existing national survey we conducted. We want this pilot study to be a model for future French local groups.
The methodology developed by PEPS in our analysis of all French undergraduate curricula is being replicated by ISIPE groups worldwide at the moment. So far 9 countries are involved in the project, and we are expecting 5 or 6 more. Final results will be available after the summer.
IN GERMANY, over the past year 9 groups joined the Netzwerk Plurale Ökonomik. We initiated, organized or participated in a large number of regular lectures in 23 universities throughout Germany and Austria (for an overview check Pluralowatch). They dealt with the theoretical foundations of economics, with the different schools of thought or with current economic issues. Many groups had reading circles or organized panel discussions. Netzwerk-members gave interviews or wrote articles for nationwide newspapers, magazines and journals. We also entered discussions with politicians and hosted the first general assembly of ISIPE in Tübingen. Within the German speaking chapter of ISIPE we are continuously and enthusiastically promoting the development of pluralism in economics.
IN ISRAEL, we have spread into a solid national network. All of the groups had a series of guest lecturers coming in from different sections of the economy, sharing their varied knowledge. We were interviewed by different magazines (including The Marker - the main financial newspaper in the country) and TV shows, spreading the word of ISIPE. We had a summer seminar, where students from different universities attended and joined our organizations.
IN ITALY, Rethinking Economics Italia organised one of the conferences of Biennale Democrazia, a big cultural event held in Turin from 25th to 29th of March. The conference, named “I confini del mercato” (The Borders of the Market), with Colin Crouch and Elena Granaglia as guests attracted good audience participation and press coverage. Italy is also involved in the on-going ISIPE survey of economics curricula worldwide.
At the local level, we are especially active in Rome, in two universities (Luiss and Sapienza), and in Lombardy. In April, our group in Milan (based at Bocconi and Cattolica universities) and Bergamo, together with a local student association, arranged a series of speaker events about heterodox perspectives. Something similar has been arranged by the Luiss group, with an event concerning rationality and behavioural economics. At Sapienza, from the initiative of the local group, Professor Sardoni and Professor Ingrao are holding seminars about the history of modern macroeconomics. These seminars are formally recognised by various departments, giving to students formative credits for attendance. A recording of our 5th May events will be published on our Youtube channel, where some videos from the previous activities in Bergamo and Sapienza are already available.
IN PORTUGAL, Coletivo Economia sem Muros (“Economy Without Walls” Collective) organized a Free Course in Heterodox Economics from the 23th of April to the 22nd of May (2014), with four sessions: Marxist criticism and uses of Economic Nationalism; Environmental Economics and Sustainable Development; Financialization: a Marxist perspective; and Behavioral Economics and the limits of Rational Choice.
More recently, and considering the economic and political context of these times, the Collective organized a panel discussion with Francesco Franco and Francisco Louçã on the 6th of March (2015) entitled “Greece: Breaking with Austerity, is it Possible?”.
IN SPAIN, the group of students composing Post-Crash Barcelona has been spreading the ideas in support for pluralism at different levels. Since its foundation the winter of 2014, a set of conferences and debates have been organized, aiming at gaining broader knowledge on what actually stands for neoclassical economics and questioning the principles underlying it, as well as to approach other schools of thought such as Ecological Economics, Feminist Economics, Marxist Economics, and Social Economics (covering the topics of sustainable forms of economic development and ethical banking).
Post-Crash Barcelona has since October 2014 been taking part in the ISIPE survey of economics curricula, which attempts to empirically support the claim for the current lack of pluralism in the teaching of Economics. By May 2015 a clear picture providing evidence of this fact has been obtained. Results will be published in summer 2015.
Moreover, the foundation of Post-Crash UPF, a group supporting pluralism in the teachings of Economics at Universitat Pompeu Fabra, has been determinant to approach younger students, not only by making them aware of ISIPE and Post-Crash Barcelona, but by promoting the events across the student community, teachers and academics of the Economics Faculty, as well as organizing a seminar on History of Economic Thought. Finally, there have been contacts with other groups in Spain to further spread ISIPE, particularly in Madrid and Extremadura.
IN TURKEY, the Political Economy Society at Bogazici University in Istanbul succeeded in introducing a new course on history of economic thought and economic history for second year economics students.
IN THE UK, Rethinking Economics (RE) featured regularly in international press including The Economist, Financial Times, The Guardian and BBC Radio 4, and reaching the Times of India and Al Jazeera. We have received significant funding from philanthropic organisations. Our key work of running seminars, lecture series, workshops and discussions continues to thrive and the UK movement has grown substantially, with new groups at the Universities of Leeds, Sussex, Greenwich, Kingston and Edinburgh to a total of thirteen current UK groups, with more forming.
Our annual London conference in June 2014 featured top economists and a 300 strong audience of students, professionals and public. Our anticipated 2015 conference happens this summer. Post-Crash Economics Manchester hosted an ‘Unconference’ featuring Martin Wolf, Claire Jones, Ha-Joon Chang, Paul Mason among others, and a ‘Citizens’ Crash Course in Economics’, which premiered Terry Jones’ Boom Bust Boom movie, and we’re currently working with the producers to launch an online platform for public engagement in economics. Our Schools Outreach programme has delivered economics workshops for 16-18 year olds.
RE influenced the UK government’s higher education Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) by including key changes (economic theory to economic theories) in its benchmark statement for universities, supported by over 100 signatures including key academics. Our ‘Pluralist Reader’ has secured a publisher, which will be co-written by academics and students and give an overview of various schools of thought. RE student organisers continue to contribute to the development of the Skidelsky Curriculum which seeks to produce a pluralist curriculum.
IN THE UNITED STATES, Rethinking Economics organized an entirely student-run conference in New York City in September in cooperation with The Modern Money Network. The conference took place at three different New York universities: The New School, Columbia University and NYU and had close to 1000 participants. Over the course of the three days, participants could engage in discussions from all corners of the economics discipline and listen to lectures from Paul Krugman, Michael Sandel, Deirdre McCloskey, Philip Mirowski, James Galbraith, Willem Buiter and many others. The full program is here.
We are currently working on building an economics content platform called EconMunch that aims to be the center for economics content-sharing and discussion on the web.