Main topic

The general topic for invited lectures is “The evolving future of economics. How data and techniques, specialization, and other disciplines are reshaping the dismal science and economists’ work”. 

The future of economics has never been so debated. The economics discipline is undergoing major changes, all driving the “dismal science” away from theory. Today’s mainstream economics seems characterized by unprecedented variety, being populated by a series of mainstream research programs that deviate from the neoclassical core and have their origins in other disciplines. It is truly as if economics imperialism had come to an end, under the influence of both specialization, which makes other disciplines have a transformative impact on economics, and of the availability of (big) data and powerful techniques for analyzing them: economics is becoming applied, while during the decades of its imperialism economists’ work was fundamentally of a theoretical nature. While pure theory loses ground, however, the discipline seems reluctant to embrace the potential drive toward pluralism which might result from the unparalleled plurality of its mainstream.

The summer school centers upon the changing status of economics from a historical perspective. The abovementioned triggering mechanisms for change, namely data and new analytical techniques, specialization, and the impact of other disciplines are at once inducing economists to modify their approach to conventional issues in economics and shifting their attention toward those frontier issues (like, for instance, innovation, sustainability, gender) that most profit from the discipline’s applied turn and its new openness to neighboring social sciences. Lectures will provide participants with elements to explore the new meaning and relevance of theory in economics, the new ways traditional issues are dealt with, and economists’ new concerns. But they will also include reflections upon whether and how the recalled factors of change might lessen the rigidity of the discipline’s structure – the core-periphery organization which traditionally separates the orthodoxy of neoclassical economics from heterodox approaches –, and the new role of “last generalists” that historians of economic thought might play in the near future.