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Title: The education of economists : social norms and the Academy in the Canadian context
Author: Quigley, Ellen
ISNI:       0000 0004 7231 8499
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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This dissertation centres upon the learning processes and social norms associated with two distinct strands of economic thinking – one loosely heterodox and the other mainstream, or “neo-classical.” My intention is to examine the learning processes and consequent beliefs of a range of Canadian economists, especially macroeconomists. To achieve this goal, I have undertaken a number of comparative case studies within the Canadian context. These have generated data from a survey of 100 academic economists as well as a series of in-depth interviews with 58 Canadian economists across the political and methodological spectra. My results have drawn from the contributions of a total of 158 respondents. This thesis aims to examine economics education in the Canadian context, charting the rise of neoclassical economics from the 1970s onwards while examining the educational processes, choice of language, social norms, and views of human nature to be found among a variety of Canadian economists with differing political orientations. This may help to identify the role economics education has played in shaping the economic landscape in Canada, and how Canadian economists’ learning processes have emphasised or minimised certain assumptions about public policy and human nature that differ from what is taught – implicitly or explicitly – elsewhere. In a field that is, among the social sciences, by far the most resistant to knowledge from other disciplines, Canadian academic economists are by all appearances global outliers. My research suggests that they are significantly more open to knowledge from other disciplines than groups of economists elsewhere; relative to American academic economists, they are almost twice as likely to believe that interdisciplinary knowledge is better than knowledge generated from a single field, and the older cohorts surpass even U.S. sociologists in this regard. My research also suggests that social norms may have a more profound effect on economists’ beliefs than their formal education in economics, and that historical and institutional factors – especially during economists’ formative years – may have a life-long impact on Canadian economists’ political beliefs. There also appear to be educational, geographical, and cohort-related effects on economists’ beliefs that, together with the effects of Canadian social norms, combine to form an image of a discipline that is less polarised, more pro-interdisciplinarity, and substantially more accepting of a role for government in economic policy than that of their economist brethren in the U.S.
Supervisor: Gardner, Philip Sponsor: Cambridge Trust ; British Association of Canadian Studies ; Smuts Fund ; Cambridge Philosophical Society
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Education ; Economics ; Heterodoxy ; Neoclassical ; Canada ; Interdisciplinarity ; Economists