The UVM economics department has moved from the left to the right during the past 20 years with the pattern of hires, fires, quits, deaths and retirement. Today, despite a few so-called ‘prog’ economists left, UVM economics has emerged now dominated by neoclassicals, while the remaining few who call themselves non-neoclassical have moved to tolerable, hardly radical, teaching to accommodate respectable opinion per opportunistic career ambitions and political winds. Sad, but true. All so very conventional (excepting one remaining diehard), despite some token criticism of orthodoxy. No more challenging ecological or Marxian or other alternative modeling approaches taught seriously, especially challenging the dogma at the core of the curriculum — where most of the intellectual damage to students is done (many never take more than a core micro or macro course if they don’t major in economics).
It is not surprising so-called progressives have become so tepid, as the left has always had an insecurity complex in academia, craving recognition over being ignored (which the profession has the power to do, and does quite well), leading to wimpier wonky arguments and giving enormous ground on the analytical front in the classroom. All that seems to matter now is preparing students for the corporate job market, as was expressed at department meetings by one senior full professor. Predictably, the neoclassical hegemony still prevails everywhere, despite the utter failure of the mainstream modeling approach. This then results in obsequious left academics being marginalized, at best, or simply tolerated, which feeds their insecurity and feelings of insignificance and meaninglessness.
On that note, I came across a rather good explanation, in my opinion, of the sociology of neoclassical hegemony that rules the economics profession despite the rather uselessness of the models that are fetishized in this school of thought. This post at Rethinking Economics by Bruno Roberts-Dear makes the case quite well that there is a form of ideological (as opposed to familial) nepotism that reproduces the ideologiy of methodical individualism and the neoclassical representative agent. Bad economics follows bad economics, for career reasons. It’s all they know. If you know something contradicting the mainstream approach, and they don’t, you are a threat and an undesirable element that needs to be eliminated (or not hired). Hope you enjoy the post by Bruno Roberts-Dear.