PCES recently hosted University of Manchester lecturer Pat Devine, who spoke about the fall of pluralism in economics education at Manchester. He began by talking about how the crisis has shaken the economics profession and revealed the limitations of using only one methodology to understand the world. He then moved on to discuss Manchester specifically. He said that although the core of economics education was already mainstream by the time he started teaching, the department used to employ both heterodox and mainstream economists. This meant that heterodox perspectives such as institutional, post-Keynesian, Marxist and Austrian economics were often discussed and were sometimes available to study in-depth as optional units.
Devine argued that there was not necessarily a direct effort to shed heterodox economists from the department, but that the increasing consolidation of the discipline as whole, as well as the increasing demands of research, pushed the department further and further toward homogenisation. He also commented on the negative effect the increase in student numbers has had on the scope for discussion and open ended questions, since it’s far easier to have a debate with a handful of students, and to mark masses of exams where the answers are either ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Overall, he seemed to believe that the fall of pluralism was an unfortunate consequence of broad institutional and political changes, rather than a consequence of bad faith on the part of mainstream economists. Whatever the case, it’s clear that the contemporary campaign for pluralism will require a broad and concerted effort to reverse the trends identified by Devine.