Oz and Paul

Dear Prof. Davidson,

My name is Oz Gore and I’m a first-year economics graduate student living in Israel. My B.A was in PPE (Politics, Philosophy, Economics), an interdisciplinary program at Hebrew U.

As part of the program we were required to write a personal paper on a topic of our choosing and I chose Keynes. Working on my paper I came across your work and was greatly inspired. Feeling that mainstream economics is extremely narrow, I was contemplating a lot on what kind of graduate studies to pursue. Reading your work made me realize that economics can (and should) be a subject of deep philosophical discussion and that some schools of thought treat it hands-on as oppose to the way I was taught (which is to wear mathematical gloves each time I want to study the world).

So, I began my graduate studies at the Hebrew U hoping that I would acquire tools that will help me understand the world better, and hopefully enable me to say something positive about it. However, it seems that the kind of economics taught at the department (and by looking at syllabuses, other institutes don’t look very different) isn’t going to help me. I feel that devoting all of my time to understanding what a closed-set is or how to use a contraction-function doesn’t help me understand the phenomena I want to study and even takes me away from it.

Reading non-mainstream economists I realize that I do not want to use formal models and that mathematical economics is not the kind of economics I want to practice. Sadly, my department doesn’t offer any kind of heterodox economics courses. It seems that if I want to deal with monetary economics that does not separate between real and monetary; to deal with the implications of time and uncertainty or to theorize about open systems, then Micro A, Macro A and Econometrics A will not provide me with any useful knowledge (personally I feel that they provide nothing but a practice or a method which I feel do not fit the object of research).

Although I always saw myself as aiming for a research career in economics, currently I feel that an M.A in mainstream economics is not the way to go. However, I am not sure what the right way would be. Would you say that in order to deal with heterodox economics I must undergo orthodox training? Honestly, I hope not. Dealing with elaborate mathematical models is very demanding and I believe that reading Minsky, Marx, Keynes or Hayek would be of a better service to me as a researcher of the social sciences.

I know very little about the politics of academia, and I am worried that giving up a title such as Economics Phd for something other like Sociology Phd or Politics would ironically hurt my chances of during the kind of research I want to do (in universities or research centers) when in fact earning the Economics Phd teaches me a kind of economics that I don’t agree with and that, again, will not serve me in my research.

I would very much like to hear your opinion, as I find myself at this meaningful cross-road.

Thank you,

Sincerely,

Oz Gore

Jerusalem, Israel

 ____________________________________________________________________

Dear Oz:

I sympathize with you. Unfortunately what is taught as economics is what is taught at nearly all economics departments around the world.  Math is thought to make economics a science!!

Perhaps there are a few Universities where the economics discipline comes slightly closer to what you are looking for.  For example Cambridge University in the UK has Toby Lawson and his disciples; or the University of Missouri at Kansas City has a more heterodox and somewhat philosophical approach, and the New School for Social Research in New York also may have something that appeals to you.

I shall post your letter on the real world economic review blog — which is read by more sympathetic economists — and suggest they contact you at your email address: oxgore.mail@gmail.com  to send possible suggestions for you.

You still have to know mainstream economics — but it looks like you have been exposed to close to a sufficient amount.

I also suggest that you read E. Roy Weintraub’s book HOW ECONOMICS BECAME A MATHEMATICAL SCIENCE.

I hope this will provide you with some options

Paul Davidson
Editor, Journal of Post Keynesian Economics
Author: THE KEYNES SOLUTION: THE PATH TO GLOBAL ECONOMIC PROSPERITY
Bernard Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis
The New School, New York
email: pdavidson@utk.edu
http://econ.bus.utk.edu/davidson.html

_________________________________________________________________________

From: Oz Gore [mailto:ozgore.mail@gmail.com]
Sent: Mon 12/14/2009 5:08 PM
To: Davidson, Paul
Subject: Re: Personal Advice


Dear Prof. Davidson,

Thank you so much for your fast reply.

I greatly appreciate your suggestion regarding the blog. I would very much like to hear from more economists and I know of additional grad students that will find such suggestions helpful. I’ll be sure to let them know about the different possibilities. I will also check out the book you’ve suggested.

my email address is ozgore.mail@gmail.com

Thanks again,

Oz

  1. Pablo M. Podhorzer
    December 15, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    Dear Oz:

    I studied Economics in Tel Aviv University for a couple of years, until I understood that learning in a place that wants to be Chicago Wadi is not necessary. Being already there, I simply transferred myself to Sociology, where I could read a little Marx (with limits, of course, after all is still TAU). Of course, that renders me as ineligible to get a “good job”, because Sociologists are not precisely the most sought-of professionals. I could not care less.

    If you do not find an MA that caters to your taste, maybe you could go directly towards a PhD outside Israel. I don’t know if that is possible, or maybe the MA would really help you to hone your research skills (which get rusty if you are outside the Academy trying to do things by yourself, trust me).

  2. Jake
    December 16, 2009 at 12:10 am

    Oz, If you don’t mind the lack of scientific controls, you might enjoy a career in the financial field. Consider it experimentalist training on live subjects! Successful experiment results in the funding to pursue your own research agenda, far from the academic politics whose pain and pettiness you anticipate correctly. Meanwhile, you will find immediate application for all the ethical, social and psychological study you can possibly absorb…
    Sincerely yours, -Jake

  3. Oz
    December 19, 2009 at 8:38 am

    Dear Pablo and Jake,

    Thanks to you both for your replays; and also to Edward for posting my email.

    There are many different directions once you realize that going through the economics departments isn’t for you (or isn’t for your present-you). Like you mentioned, trying a more “real” experience by going for a career in finance is one way; and diving into the social-philosophical perspectives that Sociology has to offer is yet another.

    Also, Steve Keen’s showed us (on his post from the 18th) that embracing mathematics in a non-neo-classical way could yield very interesting results. So trying a *different* way of using math in economics could also be a way to go.

    All in all, realizing route A isn’t for you calls for a new journey. I’m sure this blog will serve as a great source of inspiration while taking it.

    Thanks again,
    Oz

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