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The Soul of Economics (Interdisciplinary Conference)
September 9, 2019 - September 11, 2019
Ten years ago, the financial crisis of 2007-08 provoked considerable soul-searching within the economics profession, regarding the methodological and conceptual core of the discipline. This searching was triggered by questions about the potential causes of the crisis. This soul searching also cast doubt on the aptness of old and new theoretical, conceptual, and empirical tools that economists use to explain and predict economic phenomena and to suggest interventions in society. In turn, the epistemic challenges this soul searching engendered concerning these tools have sparked critical reflections on how much the public can trust the opinion of experts and the policy recommendations that economists give.
To make the subject matter and outcome of this soul-searching more explicit, this conference will bring together economists, philosophers of economics, sociologists of economics, and historians of economics to identify the major debates that economists have opened or re-opened in the aftermath of the crisis. The aim of the conference is to provide a platform for reflecting further on such debates and to better understand where the soul-searching could constructively lead us in the future.
The conference will be centered around the discussion of three main areas of ongoing disagreement:
- first, the debate in macroeconomics about the usefulness of DSGE models and the demand for microfoundations;
- second, the discussion of the status and usefulness of behavioral economics and how it theoretically and conceptually differs from neoclassical economics; and,
- third, the debate about the role of methodological consensus to regain public trust in economic expertise.
Therefore, the conference will have three separate streams, each addressing a specific area. The streams are:
- macroeconomics and methodology;
- microeconomics and psychology; and
- consensus, expertise, and trust in economics.
Focusing on those debates will be informative because they are timely and concern the major methodological issues that economists themselves are currently debating. For each debate, we would like to identify what sorts of reforms are being called for, reconstruct opposing positions within each of these debates, and appraise those opposing lines of the arguments in light of the epistemic goals that economists are committed to. This approach makes clear what is at stake in those calls for reforms and under which conditions such reforms should be accepted or rejected.