Founded last year after economics students were given an introductory module in Post-Keynesian economics, the Glasgow University Real World Economics Society (GURWES) expands on that rare glimpse of critical thought that us economics students were later explicitly told to “forget” for the remainder of our degree programme. In that module we were taught an alternative – and more realistic – way of thinking about economics and learned in-depth about the Post-Keynesian school.
We believe that the recent financial crisis, and the failure of most economists to predict it, shows that there is a problem in the discipline of economics.
The problem lies not only in government policy, but also in economic theory and economic education. Here at the University of Glasgow, there is one dominant approach to economics, known as neo-classical economics, with other approaches marginalised. Students remain unaware of many other economic approaches such as institutional, ecological, feminist, Marxist and Austrian ones.
Many of these approaches are the ones noted for predicting the crisis and because of this lack of engagement with them, GURWES stands as a platform to promote an open-minded and pluralistic approach to economics and has done this in many ways over the past year. We have had speakers from various disciplines, including Neil Davidson from the Sociology department and Dr Cockshott in the Computing Science department. These events have been very well attended and have shown that there is a demand amongst economics students for speakers from different disciplines and with different ideas.
We also offered study groups to help students from all years, since we believe that a solid understanding of mainstream economic theory is essential before appreciating heterodox critiques and grasping the mainstream theory will allow students more time to explore different ideas and take a pluralistic approach to the discipline.
Again, we embraced the real world approach by offering voluntary tutorial sessions to students attending the Post-Keynesian module after finding the compulsory tutorials in our previous year to be unsatisfactory since the tutors had little familiarity with heterodox approaches.
Looking ahead, in the coming year we plan to set up a History of Economic Thought reading group to encourage students to learn in greater depth about philosophers such as Smith, Marx, and Keynes and their contributions to economics. This will help students to appreciate the history and philosophy of the subject, something that has been isolated from the current economics discipline.
These are some of the things we have been trying to implement at Glasgow University, but the movement is not unique to this campus. Behind the scenes we have been working with over 100 similar societies around the globe, drafting an international manifesto – which will be released this month – to make economics less of a ‘dismal science’.
At the beginning of April, we embarked on a trip to a conference in Manchester where we met with many similar societies around the UK and proposed our changes. Previously we gained funding to travel to the Warwick Development Summit last November, meeting like-minded students who showed that it was possible to arrange a conference with over 15 speakers in one weekend. As we are affiliated with the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET), we hope to gain funding and set up another conference in the coming year in cooperation with the Adam Smith Business School.
The society has expanded greatly since its inception last year and this could not have been possible without a supportive team.
We have had many professors and postgraduate students giving us advice and support as well as speaking for us on topics of interest, and for this we are very thankful. We must also give thanks to the Adam Smith Business School for its funding, support and advice – without which we could not have managed to grow to be such a dynamic and active society with over 100 members and a board of eight people with great ambition for the future of the real world economics movement at Glasgow and beyond.