International Conference “Is economic theory useful?”, deadline extended

The deadline to submit an abstract for the International Conference “Is economic theory useful?” has been extended to the 31 January 2018.

The conference will take place at Sciences Po Lille the 6 and 7 September 2018. It is organized in partnership between Sciences Po Lille, CLERSE (UMR 8019) and Cahiers d’Économie Politique/ Papers in Political Economy.

The call for papers is here attached with all the important deadlines.

Keynote speaker will be Pierre-Noël Giraud.

SEPTEMBER 6-7/2018


Economic theory is subjected to a lot of criticism nowadays. It is accused of being unable to give efficient remedies to unemployment, inequalities, ecological perils and financial crises alike – or even of having contributed to these. Has economic theory always been useful? Has it been useful and to what purpose? We aim to distinguish three directions to discuss this theme: the meaning of the question; the history of this question under a practical perspective; the horizon to which this question is driving us.

  1. The meaning of the question. The notion of theory must be clarified. An opinion or the expression of a personal judgement or a general judgement is not yet a theory. A theory supposes the consistency and relevance of an argument about the organization of a plurality of judgements. Thus, a theory, or the organization of demonstrations and conclusions, would serve two different purposes: a purely speculative one in the critique of ideas on one side; a practical use or empirical application on the other. On this matter, one thinks at first of a political use and it is the reason why for a long-time economics has been called “Political Economy”.
    Papers selected for this first part will adopt an epistemological approach. What is a theory? What is an economic theory? What is a policy conducted in application of a previous theory? The varied answers of economists and philosophers will feed the debate.
  2. The history of this question from a practical perspective. Let’s leave aside the speculative use for the moment and focus our attention on the sole practical and political use. In those terms the question of the use of an economic theory has arisen in a recurring way through centuries. But is it necessary to climb up to the top – as for example the summit of the Ricardian theory of distribution or the Keynesian theory of money – to save the people from a crisis or stagnation? The German historical school and Institutionalism even today doubt it. The doubt concerns the practical value of what some called “high theory”. It seems that today we are experiencing a period of “low theory” in which it is claimed that the lessons we draw from history and experience, filtered through statistics and econometrics, suffice to locally fix an issue in full knowledge of the facts. This means that the rationale of an action, which is always specific, should not need a general theory and the high cost of its elaboration. Is it really the case and how did we get there?
    In this second part, papers will examine the history of economic thought. Do the years of high theory correspond to times of ideological and moral disputes about the nature of politics? Are the years of low theory the expression of a consensus about a more pragmatic philosophy of action? These questions will be enlightened by the works of historians of thought and studies on texts and authors.
  3. The horizon of the questioning. It seems that the pure speculative use of a theory with no regard to its practical and political application has lost meaning and relevance today. In other words, the need for a pure theory stepping over the technical level of problems and the empirical solutions is a thing of the past coming from theological or metaphysical ages. From this perspective, all economic knowledge and all theories have finally reached the positivist age of science where only facts, their causes and mastering matter. But are we so sure of that? Why do economists care about justice then? Why this questioning about the nature of economic rationality? Why turn the head to the past and the future where the economy is at the height of the common good for all the people on earth?
    Papers selected for this final workshop will have an economic philosophy tone. The focus will not be on the formal question of the meaning of a theory nor on the historical question of its political uses in the past and present, but on the more substantial question of the type of knowledge economics gives us about the evil committed or suffered and regarding the good hoped or expected for each and all of us.


  • Abstract proposals (500 words): 31/01/2018
  • Notification of acceptance: 24/03/2018
  • Final paper should be sent on: 25/08/2018
  • Registration from the (€200): 15/05/2018     

Contact :

Comité scientifique/Scientific Committee :

Richard Arena (GREDEG, Université de Nice)
Roberto Baranzini (Centre Walras Pareto, Université de Lausanne)
Antoinette Baujard (GATE Lyon Saint-Étienne, Université de Saint-Etienne)
Egidius Berns (Tilburg Universiteit)
Jean Cartelier (EconomiX, Université Paris-X Nanterre)
Laurent Cordonnier (CLERSE, Université Lille 1)
Ghislain Deleplace (LED, Université Paris 8)
Muriel Gilardone (CREM, Université de Caen)
Christian Gehrke (University of Graz)
Roger Guesnerie (Collège de France, PSE)
Feriel Kandil (AMSE-GREQAM, Aix-Marseille université)
Edith Klimovsky Baron (UAM, Mexico)
Agnès Labrousse (CRIISEA et CMI-EHESS, Université de Picardie-Jules Verne)
Caterina Marchionni (TINT, University of Helsinki)
Patrick Mardellat (CLERSE, Sciences Po Lille)
Goulven Rubin (LEM, Université Lille 2)
Richard Sobel (CLERSE, Université Lille 1)
Ramon Tortajada (CREG, Université Pierre Mendès France Grenoble2)
Richard Van Den Berg (Kingston University London)
Franck Van De Velde (CLERSE, Université Lille 1)

Comité d’organisation/Organization Committee :

Arnaud Berthoud (CLERSE, Université Lille 1)
Annette Disselkamp (CLERSE, Université Lille 1)
Patrick Mardellat (CLERSE, Sciences Po Lille)
Delphine Pouchain (CLERSE, Sciences Po Lille)
Marlyse Pouchol (CLERSE, Université de Reims)
Laurent Steveny (CLERSE, Université Lille 1)