Rituals

It has become a ritual of self punishment to review the state of our discipline; named History of Economics, History of Economic Thought, History and Methodology of Economics, History and Philosophy of Economics, catering to the tastes of the crowd. It is ritual because it invariably concludes all associative meetings, like the one held in Coimbra, early in the month, of the Iberian Association of Historians of Economic Thought. It is self flagellation because the news are never good, that no one cares for us and there is no future.

With one exception at the ESHET meetings in Porto, where the depression was outsourced to Young Scholars, the bearers of bad news are Full Professors, at the height of their intellectual and institutional powers. Having witnessed these moments since 2002, I am beginning to tire. In Coimbra, I was happy to hear from Ana Maria Bianchi of USP that keeping History of Economics in the curriculum takes vigilance, as she so aptly described it, a “foot in the door” and everyone “taking turns at the watch.” I was unhappy to hear from others that History of Economics should be a hobby, or hear the unsolicited complaints of how historians doing history of economics are getting the economics all wrong. It is blame the other and conform.

The future of the history of economics surely depends on us: our inventiveness, energy, enthusiasm and cooperation. But what I hear the most from people of authority is that we should give up, that they have given up. I still come to these sessions hoping for the good news from the wise and prophetic, of maybe some project to join efforts, an appeal to ambition. But maybe this is my mistake. So I decided to attend no more, and announce that the kids will go it alone if needed…

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