Still Rethinking? The Need for Pluralism in Economics


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Still Rethinking? The Need for Pluralism in Economics" Conference, 30-31 March 2019, University of Greenwich

By Ines Heck & Benjamin Tippet

For nearly a decade, economics students around the world have collectively rose up to challenge the outdated model of economics they have been taught at university. From Mexico City to Melbourne, students have put forward a clear demand for change – economics need to incorporate more perspectives and critical thinking into both teaching and research. Last weekend, at the University of Greenwich, over 40 speakers got together to reflect on what has been achieved by this movement, what still needs to be done, and why the demand for pluralism in economics is as urgent as ever.

Over two days nearly 300 people attended 20 student-led sessions broken into 5 streams, reflecting the key areas that students claim have been largely absent from mainstream economics education: ecological sustainability, inequality, gender relations, global capitalism and pluralism. Rethinking Economics Greenwich – the student society organising the conference – welcomed top economists, central bankers, academics, civil servants and activists who argued that in order to tackle the great economic challenges of the 21st century we need a reformed economics education that allows space for critical thinking, different perspectives on real world economic issues and alternative schools of thought.

The two keynote speeches of the conference hammered home the arguments of the student movement. Michael Kumof, Senior Research Advisor in the Research Hub at the Bank of England, kicked off the conference, arguing from a personal capacity that we need interdisciplinary research in order to deal with the problems of the present and anticipating the problems of the future, highlighting several examples, including the lack of a proper understanding of energy in mainstream macroeconomics.

Alongside well renowned speakers such as Özlem Onaran and Denise Hawkes, both University of Greenwich, early-career scholars were given the opportunity to present their research, and activists from Positive Money and Rethinking Economics delivered workshops. Tomás Rotta, also University of Greenwich, presented The Oxford Handbook of Karl Marx which he had co-edited together with Matt Vidal.

Victoria Chick, distinguished Emeritus Professor at UCL, closed the conference with a passionate speech criticising the mainstream notion of pluralism as a mere add-on to dominant theory and encouraging what she called a 'truly radical' project.

Professor Chick was speaking together with Jakob Kapeller, Professor for Socioeconomics at the University Duisburg-Essen, Germany, who gave insights into analysing and practising pluralism in his own research. Following their outstanding speeches, Professor Chick and Professor Kapeller discussed students' priorities for curriculum change that had previously been developed in a students-only workshop.

Alongside the speakers, Rethinking Economics Greenwich welcomed student organisers from across the UK and beyond, including Italy, Austria, Germany, Hungary, Belgium and the Netherlands.
The full line up of speakers and programme is available here.