Motivating, Inspiring, Exciting: A weekend at the Rethinking Economics European Gathering

Samu Fazekas

I don't even know where to start because I have so much to talk about. During the weekend (Thursday-Sunday) I attended the European Gathering of Rethinking Economics with around 50 fellow 'rethinkers' from all around Europe. It was an amazing and eye-opening experience, and I really want to share what I learned to inspire you as others inspired me during the Gathering. I will quickly summarise the topics of the workshops then I will finish my post by explaining what I learned during these 4 days.

On Friday we had a workshop about why we need pluralism in economics. We talked about that today's economics is dominated by the neoliberal school and why is it problematic. I think that it is ridiculous that you can go through Economics education (undergraduate to Phd) without talking about climate change once. We were talking about how Economics is obsessed with its models while most of the courses have no real life references, empirical studies. In the core modules (probably not even in the options) we never going to hear about the Post-Keynesian school, although many asset management companies are using Post-Keynesian models to predict because they tend to be much more exact. We are not required to think critically, the emphasis is on learning neoclassical models and enormous amount of statistics. And even though economics graduates will most of the times end up in highly prestigous jobs influencing policy making to a large extent, they do not have to learn about the burning issues of today such as climate change or rising inequality. And obviously they do not have to study Feminist, Ecological or Complexity Economics, furthermore most of the graduates will have a firm belief that economics is nothing else than the Neoclassical Economics, and they will be surprised if you tell them that other schools do exist within Economics. (By the way there is a great textbook edited by Rethink students and written by prestigious scholars introducing their schools of thought titled Rethinking Economics: An Introduction to Economic Pluralism). Imagine you are studying politics, but the only thing you have to read and learn is Conservatism and nothing else. Sounds ridiculous, isn't it? That is what is going on in economics education.

We also had a talk about how the Rethinking Economics movement started. It grew out from student movements in the UK who were questioning after the financial crises why nobody saw it coming and why it is not taught in universities. Now, Rethink has more than 50 local groups from all around the world fighting for pluralism in economics and reforming economics curriculum.

We also had a talk from Ingrid Kvangraven from the University of York about heterodox developmentevonomics. She summarised the history of development economics and introduced many theories, then she argued that more than half of these development theories are discredited by mainstream economics thus not published in the top 5 journals, so she (and other heterdodox economists) can only publish in other non-economics journals (sociology, political economy or anthropology). She also held a workshop about (lack of) diversity in economics. We talked about the importance of diversity within the field and how it is missing entirely from the field today (for a great example see the article: https://www.wsj.com/articles/as-economics-profession-looks-to-draw-women-hotel-room-job-interviews-get-nixed-11567512002). She also introcuded the initiative D-Econ (Diversify and Decolonise Economics) that she started with other colleagues, that among others develops a database with studies from outside Europe and North America as they have much less recognition in general. 

On Saturday we had a lot of practical skill-building workshops. We had workshops on how to write curriculum reviews, how to campaign effectively, how to approachproffesors, how to organise events and how to build a pluralist curriculum. Curriculum review is a crucial activity of Rethinking Economics where we analyse the economics curriculum (how pluralistic is it, how much relevance it has etc.) and give feedback to departments how they could improve their economics education.

We also launched international working groups on the topic of climate change (Economists for Future), diversity and decolonisation of economics, curriculum review and building pluralist curriculum with the aim to motivate local groups to engage in these projects and assist them. If you are interested in working with any of these topics please approach us!

To conclude the long weekend, I would like to first express how grateful I am for this gathering as it made me realise many things. Firstly, we need to 'rethink' economics urgently. At the currentstate we are heading towards a climate emergency, inequalities are and have been rising for decades and we need to work on creating a new society based on solidarity and inclusivity. And for this an economics that takes into consideration the society and the environment is absolutely necessary, we cannot deal with global problems with a system that is based on radical individualism. Secondly, I realised that I am not alone, there are countless people out there who are working for change tirelessly. I met a British guy who currently studies in Italy and spends his free time with approaching professors to push for more pluralism in economics, I met two Dutch guys who did a curriculum review for 9 (!!!) universities in Netherland and I also came to know that one of our fellow rethinkers in Germany developed (with others) an open source e-learning platform (http://www.exploring-economics.org/en) that introduces a pluralist economics. The Rethink movement is full of passionate and hard-working people, and they definitely motivated me to start working on campaigning for pluralist economics and improving the curriculum at Warwick as well. If you want to come with us on this long journey, please contact Rethink Economics Warwick and join us today!

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