Making History by Making Identity and Institutions: The Emergence of Post Keynesian-Heterodox Economics in Britain, 1974-1996

Article excerpt

Abstract: The complexity of the history of heterodox economics combined with the lack of extensive detailed studies on components of the history means that it is not yet possible to produce a general history of heterodox economics or a generalised historical identity of heterodox economists. Some detailed studies have been produced on specific heterodox theories and on the organisational and institutional components of the history and thereby have contributed to creating a historical identity for heterodox economists. This paper is a further contribution to this agenda in that it reconstructs the historical emergence of Post Keynesian-heterodox economics in terms of identity, institutions, and organisations in Britain from 1974 to 1996. It deals with the non-Cambridge and Cambridge efforts to create a Post Keynesian-heterodox identity and institutional and organisational support for that identity from 1974 to 1988, the fruits of these efforts and the development of various publishing outlets from 1988 to 1996.

1 Introduction

The complexity of the history of heterodox economics combined with the lack of extensive detailed studies on components of the history means that it is not yet possible to produce a general history of heterodox economics or a generalised historical identity of heterodox economists. Some detailed studies have been produced on specific heterodox theories and on the organisational and institutional components of the history and thereby have contributed to creating a historical identity for heterodox economists. This article is a further contribution to this agenda in that it reconstructs the historical emergence of Post Keynesian-heterodox economics in terms of identity, institutions and organisations in Britain from 1974 to 1996. In 1970 the Conference of Socialist Economists (CSE) was formed with the purpose of developing a Marxian-heterodox economics. Although initially successful, by 1975 it was split by disagreement over the validity of Marxian economic theory, with a number of economists leaving the CSE. But outside the CSE circa 1974 was an intellectual wilderness--and this is where the story starts. Thus the first section deals with the non-Cambridge and Cambridge efforts to create a Post Keynesian-heterodox identity and institutional and organisational support for that identity from 1974 to 1988. The second section deals with the fruits of these efforts; that is, the creation and activity of the Post-Keynesian Economics Study Group, of the Malvern conferences and of the development of various publishing outlets from 1988 to 1996, when the community of Post Keynesian-heterodox economists was well established. The final section concludes the article with a discussion of the organisation and identity of the community of Post Keynesian-heterodox economists.

2 Creating Post Keynesian-Heterodox Identity, 1974-1988

Outside of the CSE in the early 1970s there were no national academic organisations that heterodox economists could identify with and be drawn to; there were no academic economic journals to which to submit papers; and there were no annual economic conferences or nationally-oriented seminars to attend. In short, there were, outside CSE and with the exception of Cambridge, almost no local and no regional and national organisations in place in the early 1970s that could contribute to the creation of a Post Keynesian-heterodox identity. Thus, to pursue the type of economics they found interesting, heterodox economists outside of CSE found it necessary to build the institutions and organisations step-by-step and in this process the foundations for a Post Keynesian-heterodox identity were laid. And this difficult task was made much harder because, except for a significant concentration at Cambridge and a smaller concentration at Manchester, Post Keynesian-heterodox economists were sparsely spread throughout the old university sector while the majority of them were located in the poorer, less reputable polytechnic sector. …