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Mark Thoma Praises Michael Perelman: The Role for "Heterodox" Economists

Mark Thoma praises Michael Perelman:

A Role for Heterodox Economists | TPMCafe: I first met Michael in the late 1970s during my undergraduate days at California State University at Chico where he was a faculty member....

Here's what the department website says about him today:

...Michael Perelman, Professor of Economics, is the most prolific author in the Department of Economics at Chico. He enjoys teaching a wide range of courses including [principles of micro and macro], ... Economics of the Future ..., ...U. S. Economic History..., ...Economics of Big Business..., ...History of Economic Thought... and ... Marxist Economic Thought... His classes emphasize critical thinking about the application of economic thought... He likes to publish what is discussed in classes. To date, Professor Perelman has authored fifteen books. "Although known for his radical views, Professor Perelman is widely respected throughout the campus. Dr. Perelman is a scholar of high productivity--he has a record of scholarly research, writing and presentations that is prodigious. Even more, his level of work has been consistently high since he joined our faculty in Economics in 1971." (Arno J. Rethans, Dean, College of Business)

The term "widely respected" is not one I would have used based upon my experiences while at Chico. Far from it. It seems things may have changed over time, and that would be nice for Michael - he earned it the hard way.... [W]hen I was an undergraduate at Chico I was told point blank not to take his upper division classes on Marxism, etc., by another member of the faculty, and I followed that advice. His ideas were not mainstream, not by a long shot, and they were sometimes belittled by other members of the department....

Looking back, Michael was one of the few faculty who was continuously engaged in doing research, willing to give his time to students, one of the few doing what you expect of faculty. He has fifteen books! I can remember him taking the time to show me a detailed outline for one of his books on the boards in his office, and then I saw him work further on the outline day after day as he wrote each chapter. That was a useful example when I faced similar tasks myself later on....

Turning to the influence of heterodox economists more generally, as I look back and think about my days at Chico, I realize Michael had more influence over the Department than I understood at the time, and part of that was his active research effort. He brought in seminar speakers as I just noted and they would present non-traditional ideas....

I see Michael is now teaching the History of Economic Thought.... I think of this course as, in part, "standard heterodoxy.".... There are some very fundamental criticisms of economists' approach to capitalism that come out of studying the history of thought....

[H]eterodox economists have an important role to play in keeping these ideas alive within economics departments. As budgets are cut and universities are encouraged to cut the "fat," it is all too easy to see courses such as the history of economic thought as expendable....

So how do we protect these ideas and keep them alive within economics departments, and how do we allow new ideas to come forward? One way is to try to keep history of thought courses in the curriculum, but that's too narrow...

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