AISPE-STOREP Joint session at ESHET 2018

Joint session at ESHET 2018
“Entrepreneurship, knowledge and employment”
Complutense University of Madrid, 7 June 2018

New cultural developments and institutional alliances for the HET

For a variety of reasons, the history of economic thought has been increasingly ostracized within the economic profession. As Trautwein (2017) has recently argued, “the general trend of research specialization in economics” has contributed to such marginalization. The resulting fragmentation, however, and the shifting boundaries between economics and other disciplines, may provide the opportunity for a general rethinking of the role and responsibilities of the history of economic thought, also in view of the possibilities opened up by the availability of new quantitative techniques to investigate the recent evolution of economics as science. The aim of the session is to reflect upon such new opportunities and threats for the History of economic thought as field.

The first session paper [“Calls for papers in the History of Economic Thought (2012-2017)“, by Manuela Mosca, Università del Salento (Lecce)] presents an overview of the current state of the History of Economic Thought on a world level. The author uses her own data base which includes the calls for papers sent out by the SHOE and ESHET lists from 2012 to 2017. This data base shows which figures “call” historians of economic thought to their conferences, and on which topics. She firstly focuses on the institutions that send out calls for papers, breaking them down by geographical area, subject sector and kind of call, in a perspective of external history. She then examines the conference titles with an internal history approach, distinguishing them according to their subject (single economists, methodology, economic models, critics of mainstream economics, foundations of economic theory, economic policies, development economics, interdisciplinary issues, economic crisis).

The second session paper [“The Visible Map and the Hidden Structure of Economics“, by
Angela Ambrosino (Università di Torino), Mario Cedrini (Università di Torino), John B. Davis (Marquette University and University of Amsterdam), Stefano Fiori (Università di Torino), Marco Guerzoni (Università di Torino and ICRIOS, Bocconi University, Milan), and Massimiliano Nuccio (Università di Torino)] is a first, preliminary attempt to illustrate the potentialities of topic modeling as information retrieval system helping to reduce problems of overload information in the sciences, and economics in particular. Noting that some motives for the use of automated tools as information retrieval systems in economics have to do with the changing structure of the discipline itself, we argue that the standard classification system in economics developed over a hundred years ago by the American Economics Association, the Journal of Economic Literature (JEL) codes, can easily assist in detecting the major faults of unsupervised techniques and possibly provide suggestions about how to correct them. With this aim in mind, we apply to the corpus of (some 1500) “exemplary” documents for each classification of the Journal of Economics Literature Codes indicated by the American Economics Association in the “JEL codes guide” ( the topic-modeling technique known as Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA), which serves to discover the hidden (latent) thematic structure in large archives of documents, by detecting probabilistic regularities, that is trends in language text and recurring themes in the form of co-occurring words. The ambition is to propose and interpret measures of (dis)similarity between JEL codes and the LDA topics resulting from the analysis.

In the aftermath of the recent financial crisis the status of economics has come under attack. A central critique is that economics is dogmatic in its adherence to its orthodox insights. The literature on current developments in economics, however, argues that mainstream economics has moved beyond the previous orthodoxy. To show empirically which view is correct, a computational text analysis of PhD dissertations is performed in the third session paper [“In what direction is economics heading?“, by Sam de Muijnck, Radboud University Nijmegen]. The text analysis shows that a large majority of the dissertations explicitly engage with orthodox economics, while about a quarter does so with nonorthodox mainstream economics. The findings thus support the view that orthodox economics is still dominant, although it coexists with some nonorthodox mainstream approaches. There is very little change over time in the ratios of dissertations which mention any of the approaches. This runs counter to the idea that the dominance of the current orthodoxy is fading.