If it’s history it’s in the past

A problem I have encountered in writing on the history of post-2000 economics is that it seems to be, well, post-2000 economics. In fact, I have come across quite a few historical studies of recent economics in which it is difficult to make out whether it is economics or its history. No doubt this is partly for reasons mentioned on the HES list and this blog. But here’s my unsubstantiated thesis: the reason that for contemporary stuff economics and its history are sometimes difficult to distinguish is that histories of recent economics tend to use present tense (although it also seems to be a more general trend in historical writings).
To get rid of all those discussions on the difference between the two, let economic texts stick to present tense and let historical pieces stick to past tense.


4 thoughts on “If it’s history it’s in the past

  1. I find it very challenging to write a history of post-2000 economics. Maybe because the events are so close in time that it’s hard for historians to have a “perspective” and materials to work on substantially different than the practitioners’ — however, there are a lot of things to explore if you see current manifestations as byproducts of “seeds” in the past, as Beatrice suggested in her previous post. And here I see no help coming from the tense strategy you proposed: in any case, both practitioners and historians would like to construct a past for their own purposes, and both would then use past tenses (as “Economist X demonstrated this” and so on).

  2. Floris,
    Sorry to interrumpt the debate but : this blog reminds me of the tv show “the twilight zone”. Strange phenomenons happen here : sometimes, around midnight, a strange post about curves, equations and economics, written almost like a poem, appears.
    And the next morning, it ‘s gone !
    Yesterday was the second time…

  3. Like JB I have attended this strange apperance-disappeance twice.
    The metaphor is really beautiful
    Isn’t time to make your coming out as a poet?

  4. Ahhh, the poem is back.

    Right now, I am reading this paper by Eward Berkowitz (1988), “Public History, Academic History, and Policy Analysis: A Case Study with Commentary”, The Public Historian, vol 10, n°4

    I find it mirrors some of the debates in this blog. You might be interested in reading it.

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