Please upgrade to a browser that supports HTML5 video or install Flash.Decolonizing_lge-ds-yp5-q4-giz.png

Decolonizing Economics

Global Racial Justice and the Everyday Politics of Crisis and Hope, 2021–22

** After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Zoom webinar. Please note, you will only be able to join the webinar at the specified time and date.


In this talk we will explore the ways in which the Economics discipline continues to perpetuate historically produced Eurocentrism and structural exclusion, to the detriment not only of scientific quality, but also good economic policy. Economic theories, as other social theories, are affected by the context in which they are produced and they might express certain privileged perspectives. While these theoretical frameworks dominate economics textbooks globally, they may not be particularly relevant for understanding global problems or economies with different institutional structures, for example, due to their colonial past or peripheral position in the global economy. In this context, we will also discuss what it means to decolonize economics and why it is urgently needed. Decolonization is not simply about providing historical context, but to acknowledge that theories from outside the West can provide fruitful starting points. This is important not only to understand the process of development, but economic phenomena in general, even in the Global North. It also involves interrogating and challenging the ways in which the economy itself is sexist, racist, and colonial, and the consequences of an economics field that fails to see this. This means that we locate the struggle to change the economics field within the broader material struggle against racism, sexism, elitism and imperialism in society at large.

 

Speaker: Devika Dutt is a Berggruen Fellow at the University of Southern California. She holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, with a specialization in international finance, macroeconomics, political economy, and development. She is also a consultant to the Council on the Economics of Health for All of the World Health Organization. Her research is focused on the political economy of foreign exchange intervention, central bank swap agreements, the political economy of development policy (especially as it relates to international financial institutions), macroeconomic policy in developing economies, and decolonizing the economics discipline. She is also a member of the steering group and a co-founder of the online publication, Diversifying and Decolonizing Economics (D-Econ).


Discussant: Alden Young is an assistant professor of African American Studies and a faculty member of the International Development Studies Program of the UCLA International Institute. A political and economic historian of Africa, he is the author of "Transforming Sudan: Decolonization, Economic Development and State Formation" (Cambridge University Press, 2017). Young is particularly interested in the ways in which Africans participated in the creation of the current international order and has research interests on both sides of the Red Sea. He has done extensive fieldwork in Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

Photo: Dan Komada/ Institute for Advanced Study.

Cosponsors: African Studies Center, International Development Studies Program

 Organizers: International Institute

Please upgrade to a browser that supports HTML5 audio or install Flash.

Audio MP3 Download Podcast

Duration: 01:32:14

Decolonizing-Economics-ih-3ey.mp3

Transcript:

Jennifer Jihye Chun

Hello, my name is Jennifer Jihye Chung and on behalf of the International Institute and the International Development Studies Program at UCLA, it is my great pleasure to welcome you to today's event decolonizing economics with our guest speaker Dr. Devika Dutt. I want to begin by acknowledging our presence on the traditional ancestral and unceded territory of the Gabrielino Tongva peoples, particularly in light of today's event, but essential as part of our every day. It is vital that all of us who have the privilege and opportunity to work, teach and learn at UCLA acknowledge that our campus was founded upon and continues to benefit from the systematic dispossession of indigenous peoples of their lands.

Before we turn to our distinguished speakers, let me briefly share a bit about this year's webinar series, Global Racial Justice and the Everyday Politics of Crisis and Hope. Our series aims to deepen collective understanding of the structure and experience of racial oppression, as well as to draw connections among the many wide-ranging struggles for emancipatory transformation that have taken place in the U.S. and around the world. At the start, our endeavor was inspired by the extraordinary upsurge of the Black Lives Matter movement, amidst the backdrop of a deadly pandemic. This year, we continue to raise questions and foster cross-cutting conversations about the urgent need for racial reckoning as apathy and tolerance and a vocal organized backlash become resurgent.

Many thanks are in order to the supporters of our series, including Vice Provost for International Studies and Global Engagement Cindy Fan, former Associate Vice Provost Chris Erickson and incoming Associate Vice Provost Marjorie Orellano. Deepest thanks also to the International Institute, staff and faculty, without whom we couldn't put together these really wonderful events, including Chloe Hiuga, Alex Zhu, Warren Berkey, Peg McInerny, Kaya Mentesoglu, Kathryn Paul, Laurie Hart, and many others, as well as our cosponsor, the African Studies Center. I also want to extend a warm welcome to my students in IDS 110, Culture, Power and Development, who are in attendance today. Hi, everyone.

So turning now to the main event, I couldn't be more thrilled to introduce my fabulous colleague, Professor Alden Young, who is really the driving force behind today's event. Professor Young is assistant professor of African American Studies and a faculty member of IDS at UCLA. A political and economic historian of Africa, he is the author of "Transforming Sudan: Decolonization, Economic Development and State Formation," published by Cambridge University Press in 2017. Professor Young is particularly interested in the ways in which Africans participated in the creation of the current international order. And his research interests extend on both sides of the Red Sea, including Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. So I can think of no better person to really facilitate today's conversation, as well as, you know, help us think through a lot of the important issues that this will raise today. So please join me in welcoming Professor Young.

Alden Young

Hi, everyone. Thank you. Again, thank you so much for that wonderful introduction, Jennifer, and thank you so much for your leadership in elping put together this speaker series. Today I'm really honored to be able to introduce an old friend of mine, Devika Dutt, who is a Berggruen fellow at the University of Southern California. She holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, with a specialization in international finance, macroeconomics, political economy and development. And she has also been a consultant for numerous organizations, including the Council on the Economics of Health for All of the World Health Organization.

Her research is focused on the political economy of foreign exchange intervention, central bank swap agreements, the political economy of development policy, especially as it relates to international financial institutions, macroeconomic policy and developing economies and decolonizing the economics discipline, which she'll be speaking about today. She is also a member of a number of steering groups and a co-founder of an important online publication, "Diversifying and Decolonizing Economics," casually known as D-Econ. And we're really excited to have her talk today about her... part of her new book project, which she's writing with a group, on diversifying economics. So please join us in welcoming Devika Dutt and her talk today.

Devika Dutt

Thank you so much Jennifer and Alden for that really great introduction and for putting together the series and inviting me to talk about my work. I'm just going to share my screen before I start talking so that you have it all in front of you. And yeah, I'm so glad that so many if you're interested in hearing about this, this issue. Just give me one second, and then you can send... I'm going to share my screen. And okay, here... no, are we? No, we're not in full screen yet. Okay, now we're in full screen. Great, let me just move this down over here. Right. Okay. Um, so, yeah, welcome, everybody to my talk on decolonizing economics. As Alden mentioned, I'm a Berggruen Fellow at the University of Southern California and I'm one of the founders of this group called Diversifying and Decolonizing Economics. So just to point out that this talk is based on a lot of collaborative work done with my colleagues at Diversifying and Decolonizing Economics, which is again, a network of economists and other social scientists that are trying to promote and create a field of economics that is inclusive, and we call [?], ot put it very bluntly.

And in addition, a lot of what I'm going to talk about today is basically based on a book I'm writing with my wonderful co- authors, Carolina Alves, Surbhi Kesar and Ingrid Kvangraven, who are brilliant. And I highly recommend that you Google them outside... and check out their work outside of this joint project that I'm going to talk about. Um, just to start off with saying, this is going to be a fairly, fairly introductory talk about, like, what would it mean to decolonize economics, and a lot of it is trying to motivate the problems that, that, that sort of motivated us to talk about, to talk about, you know, decolonizing economics. And so, in as far as solutions are concerned, honestly, like, we don't have all the solutions, and we can discuss them later. From what I gathered from our conversation with Professor Young and Professor Young, just before we started, there's a lot of interest in figuring out like, what can be done? And so yeah, we'll we'll figure that out together. Okay.

So just to start off, straight off, is that... So there's a lot of, there are many problems with the economics discipline, I would know. Um, and, and but what served as one of our, at least my, starting points, and I can say this for a lot of others who started this organization, D-Econ, is to... was the issue of diversity. Like, that's how we initially entered talking about decolonizing economics. And yeah, please bear with me, I'm going to talk about like how diversity is not decolonization, but that was kind of our entry point. And then we can divide these problems into basically two broad axes. First, the first is, like, we're talking just about the lack of diversity, which is, which can be seen by how white men based in the Global North still dominate all traditions of economics -- mainstream and heterodox. In addition.. so that's in terms of the identity of the body, economic, of economists. In addition, what the theoretical approaches that we have, it's pretty... there's a pretty monolithic mainstream, which has a particular approach. And a lot of heterodox theoretical approaches and methodological approaches are, are excluded and marginalized in the field.

In addition to that, there's historically produced Eurocentrism, and Eurocentrism in economics is going to be the main subject of my talk, which sort of includes claims to neutrality and universality, which is the key problem. Fortunately, what has happened now is that it's become kind of, I wouldn't say unproblematic, but it's become far more acceptable to talk about the lack of diversity. And the mainstream of the discipline really has only sort of scratched the surface by talking about how, you know, the field is dominated by white men, basically the Global North, and they haven't really approached the rest of the other, the rest of the issues that I highlight here. And as you will see, I will argue that all of this, all of these issues are very much intimately related, and you can't address one without the other, which sort of provided us our entry point of decolonization, which I'm going to talk about now.

So as a... yeah, the exclusion of heterodox thought and metholodologial approaches -- and I'm not going to dwell too much on the evidence of, like, showing you how the discipline is dominated by white men, basically the Global North. I'm happy to discuss it in the Q&A. But again, I'm going to talk about more, about the other two issues. Okay, so just to start off, there was a popular article that appeared in Project Syndicate in August 2021. Students of development studies must be familiar with Dani Rodrik, with the work of Dani Rodrik, who is an extremely influential development economist at Harvard. And in this article, which you can find online, and I can also share the link with you [https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/economics-geographic-diversity-problem-by-dani-rodrik-2021-08].

He made the following arguments that although... so you can see that he talks about like how economics has another diversity problem, in addition to the problem of, you know, the domination of white men. So the problem was like racial, lack of racial ethnic diversity and gender diversity. In addition to that, he's arguing that, although economists are finally addressing the professions, gender and racial imbalances, another key source of knowledge and insight remains absent from the discussion. And basically, he's arguing that unless there is a greater representation of voices from outside North America and Western Europe, the discipline will not be a truly global one. And he certainly presents a lot of compelling and extremely concerning evidence about how the global economics profession is still extremely concentrated. And economists based in the Global North continue to have an outsized influence in, in the economics profession globally. For instance, he shows us this map, again, in this article, which you can find online, he's showing the geographical distribution of editorial power in terms of like prominent economics journals.

And, and we are focusing here on economics journals because they're considered the the house of knowledge of the economic discipline and therefore, that's why it's important to look at this and who's who's who's calling the shots and what gets published and, therefore, serves as the body of economic knowledge that is then taught and researched and built upon, and that influences economic policy. Okay, so he shows that, you know, that these authors match geographic locations of editorial power by by looking at 49 leading journals, and they found that 63% of total editorial power is in the U.S., and also only a handful of institutions that they point out on this map. On North America accounts for 66% of the power Europe, 27% and the rest of the world, the entire rest of the world -- which constitutes the majority of the world's population -- only 7%.

And another... in another graph that you can see in his article is that he also finds certain other studies that 90% of... -- as I said, in addition to everything, economics is extremely hierarchical, so the top eight economic journal, economic journals are super important in terms of, again, what counts is knowledge and what everyone has to know and study and what influences economic policy -- that 90% of authors and the top eight economics journals are based in United States or Western Europe. And I want to emphasize 90%, that that's substantial. In addition, there's also like the self-referential thing happening in which they basically cite each other and refer to each other. And here's where the power of like these journals is important. Because effectively when we're talking amongst each other, then that's sort of what the know... that's what you count as knowledge and what's worth engaging with and what again, translates into teaching and policy.

In addition, I just want to point out that what is arguably the pinnacle of achievement in the economics discipline, the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in the Memory of Alfred Nobel, popularly called the Economics Nobel, quote unquote, because it's not a real Noble, has been awarded to 89 3conomists since its inception, and since its inception of these 89 of bodies 84 were white men, with the exception of Arthur Lewis, Amartya Sen, Elinor Ostrom, Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo. And 89 out of 89 were based in a handful of universities in the United States, United Kingdom, or the European Union. And you could think that, you know, this is an important to the profession and other parts of the world. But you would be wrong, given that there's almost a unidirectional diffusion of knowledge, again, what counts as knowledge, from the global north to the global south. And... but But Dani Rodrik points this out... in his article very convincingly, however, he does not offer a solution. And, you know, even though like I disagree with a lot of his work, I do think the Dani Rodrik is one of the more brilliant economists that we... that the more brilliant thinkers that the profession has an offer today. And he misses the key problem, which, which he puts very bluntly, which again is a source of great annoyance to me, but nonetheless, he points, he, he makes this argument that, that this, he argues that this lack of geographical diversity is extremely problematic because extremely influential ideas and economic theories were developed based on observations made in developing countries.

For instance, he gives us the example of Joe Stiglitz, who's, who's a Nobel Prize winner for his great work on asymmetric information. And he's quoted in the article as saying that his experience studying sharecropping in Kenya played a pivotal role in the development of his ideas, because otherwise he couldn't make any sense of why sharecropping as a way of organizing an agricultural system and land, land sharing system -- rent rental system -- was so prevalent. Similarly, he quotes the experience of Albert Hirschman studying real monopolies in Nigeria, in developing the ideas in his very influential book, which is "Exit, Voice and Loyalty," a super influential book. So basically, he's making the argument that still social sciences are enriched when the received wisdom from, from all the other places that confront ...but the, the consensus amongst the practitioners is confronted with anomalous behavior, or outcomes in unfamiliar environments, and when the diversity of local circumstance is fully considered, and this honestly is, in my opinion, in our opinion, the key problem: the assumption that -- and so this statement perfectly in depth encapsulates the way in which we do things in economics -- that the Global North is the norm and everything else is an aberration. So them it's the, the geographical diversity is a problem, because like, "Oh, if if we don't have voices from other places, we don't have this anomalous nuggets of behavior, which can then inform and enrich our understanding of the Global North."

While that is definitely true, it's kind of it's kind of problematic to think that what we have in the Global North IS economics, IS, is our economies, and basically, everything else is defined in lack to what is the economies of the Global North, and therefore, they have a teleological understanding of history and of development, that basically what we have in the Global South, or developing economies, or whatever you want to call them, is, are just primitive forms of economies of the Global North, and eventually, they're just going to try, they're just going to become like the Global North economies. And therefore, there's a sense of universalism. And this, in my opinion, is the key problem that I'm trying to point out today.

Then it is no surprise, that this Eurocentrism is manifested in other ways as well. The study by Das et. al. [2013], they show that... so this this map is looking at this from their study. And they, they study, that this, they look at 76,000 empirical papers in economics published in 200 economics journals, which is not limited to like top five, or top eight or whatever. This is a 200 journals{?} enough in economics. And they look at the topics of the study of like the papers that are published in these, of 76,000 papers published in these journals. And they find that, that these "aberrations" don't really find much space in these journals. In fact, they find that over the 20-year span that they're considering, there were four papers published on Burundi, nine on Cambodia, and 27 on Mali, compared to 36,649 papers, empirical papers, published on the United States in the Tsame time period. he probability of publication if you just narrow down to top five is much higher if you're reading about the United States, and tje American Economic Review, one of the top five journals, published one paper on India on average, every two years. That's like 1.4 billion people. And one paper on Thailand every 20 years. This is like, again, this is outrageous, but it's not surprising, given that we're only looking at everything else that's happening in the rest of the world as an aberration as anomalies to what we already know happens in the Global North. Okay, so this is just like manifestations of the problem.

Okay, so I'm going to pause for a second and take a step back. Because even though thus far, I spoken a lot about geographical diversity, it's very important to recognize that diversity in crude... increasing diversity in the profession either like along gender, racial, ethnic, or geographical lines, is not the same as decolonizing economics. In fact, this has been one of our key frustrations about recent discussions around deconolizing different aspects of academia -- about how it's become increasingly become a euphemism for increasing diversity. Basically, you know, it's become a buzzword in economic, social science, and often used to just advocate for great diversity. Ane while that's all well and an important and worthy goal of in and of itself, it's not enough to address the larger structural problems of the discipline. Not only is it ... Those problems that are related to not only diversity, but the fact that we're looking at other non-mainstream approaches are, are systematically marginalized in the discipline. And all of this that I've shown you, the evidence that I've shown you, is merely a manifestation of the, of that larger problem.

So the efforts to improve diversity are not enough, as the lack of representation is a manifestation of a much larger structural problem, which manifests in, as I said, in people, the discipline, and locations, and academics and policy and theoretical frameworks of economics. Basically, adding more women and people of color and storing is an approach that's not going to work because unless the structures and theories and practices are going to remain the same, we're not going to get a qualitatively different economics discipline, our core economic body of economics knowledge. So I made this little schematic, just sort of, in, in our view, what is the, what are the different aspects of what we need to be talking about, and increasing diversity is just one of them, one of them. And this includes not only like improving, trying to include, trying to improve employee, improve the representation of women, people of color, and people based in outside of the Global North in the profession, but also improving theoretical and methodological pluralism, and start... have different starting points and ways of viewing things in economics. In addition, we need to address structural exclusion and address universalism in economic theory that I pointed out. And without recognizing all of this, it's not even going to be possible to improve, improve representation in the economics discipline.

And I know I'm talking a lot about the economics, and I'll make sure, I'll tell you why it's important. Why, you know, why you should care. Why as students of development studies, you should care. And so the problem right now with with existing attempts to increase diversity in economics is it's typically based on like, to discussing individual biases and figuring out how can we mentor students and, and, you know, faculty to make sure that we can have more, we can retain more non-white men in the profession and like, ensure the success. It doesn't really identify its own theoretical limitations and explain the lack of diversity. For students, for some of you who might have had like, Introduction to Economics, let's like, we can just talk about like, what, what are the theories by which we explained discrimination. Some of the most prominent theories are looking at like, oh, discrimination is basically a function of tastes and preferences, that's not really rational to have biases against ... on the basis of gender, nationality, or race and therefore, it's basically a few people who prefer who have certain preferences, racial preferences. As a theory, that was made popular by Gary Becker, way back in almost the 70s, the 80s -- I forget.

Other explanations, but that was supposed to be insufficient, was like a non-theory like statistical discrimination. The idea that basically, it's not that people have preferences, but when you see, when you observe in the world that say, certain groups of people are more likely to -- again, this, this, this euphemism is supposed to say that, because Black people in the United States say, are, according to this theory (I'm not saying this), are more likely to either be incarcerated or have low educational attainment, therefore, it makes sense as, say, a potential employer, or potentially looking for a neighborhood to live in, that I'm skeptical of like hiring a black person or living next to them, which again, so according to them, that's just a rational way to interpret information that you see in the world, and therefore, like, behave accordingly. In a way due to market forces, or due to the greater information being available, this discrimination should appear... disappear. So economic theory doesn't really have a good explanation for what causes discrimination, and what, and what sort of explains existing disparities that we see in the economy. And therefore it's, it's, it's, it's, it makes sense that we don't have an answer to our own problem of what the profession looks like.

Similarly, if you look at it, we're talking about development studies, what can explain underdevelopment? It;s, unless, I'm going to get to this right now is if you're only talking about like, you know, if you have a teleological view of development, that basically, the Global North and the advanced industrialized nations are the pinnacle of development, and therefore everything else is supposed to progress in a way that we just get the Global South gets to where the Global North is right now, and all they need is institutions, the right institutions, sort of certain levels of labor productivity and certain, you know, democracy and what not. Then basically, we just have to, we just have to introduce those things, and we can get to where we are, and there's no sort of structural barrier to making that happen. So we don't really have, and I'm going to tell you why we don't really have a real explanation for development either. So therefore, it's impossible for them to have solution to how do we solve the problem with the lack of geographic diversity within our own ranks? Okay.

Um, so this just brings me to what we're talking about in terms of like how the economics discipline become became colonized. And part of it is just like the immense hubris within the discipline, and the critical, like a lack of critical self-reflexivity. And in addition to that, we are very little focus on economic history and the teaching of economic history and the history of economic thought. Depending on like, if any of your economic majors or you know, I can tell you like, I basically have three degrees in economics and, and my training and economics has been atypical in the sense that I have had... but for me in the programs that I went to, things like learning economic history and the history of economic thought was required. It wasn't optional, you couldn't like opt out of it. However, that's an aberration. For the most part, like economists aren't taught, and they're not, we're not meant to learn, any of this.

And that's sort of like, that's part of the problem, when in addition, even, even when we're taught or forced to learn economic history, it's this colonization of economics is tied to the development of capitalism. And basically, in mainstream economic theory, the development of capitalism is depicted as a period of triumph of rationality and incredible inventions. And it seemed to have developed endogenously in Europe, and spread evenly in a homogenous manner to the rest of the world. This specific version of history allows a portrayal of economics as a science that is governed by universal thought. The mainstream depiction of development of capitalism is highly distorted and selective and it ignores power relations, oppression, qualitative changes in social relations, and the role of, and most importantly, the role of colonialism and slave.. and the slave trade. This has laid the foundations for a thoroughly Eurocentric understanding of economic laws that operate in a universal manner, manner across the world, this teleological view of development whereby the history seemed to unfold according to a preordained path, progressing towards an objective end, was this, was articulated initially by Adam Smith, the father of economics, where Smith saw colonial societies as being primitive, at primitive stages development, assuming that they would, from there, progress in a linear fashion to culminate in the superior European style, European-style/type of capitalist development.

In addition to that, we, again, this is, this is also like an aberration to the extent that we have a view of the history of economic thought and the development of the profession itself outside of the development of capitalism, or of histor,y of economic history. It's, it's, it's seen as, alongside this depiction of capitalism as the natural system, the field also depicts the history of economic ideas in a Whiggish manner, in the sense that the idea that, basically, existing theories and bodies of knowledge are a result of a natural cumulative process and we've arrived with the best economic ideas and applications through refinement and development of rigorous techniques and concepts. And one of the central arguments that we were gonna make with that, we're going to make in our book -- which you should read when it comes out -- is that it basically makes impossible to grasp conflicting ideas and other ways of viewing the same developments, structures of oppression, because again, we're raising the history of colonialism and slave trade as it is from the story of development of European development and the development of capitalism. And we're... you can't link this to the uneven global development, colonialism and imperialism.

And so as a result, like, we have a combination of erasing these important aspects, structural aspects, in the story of development. In addition, we're saying that what we study and believe now are the most superior ideas, and therefore, erasing the history of other, other, other schools of thought and influential schools of though which, by the way, thrive along the margins of discipline, they're not part of the mainstream of the discipline, but it's not like they haven't, they have not, they don't have much to say or they're, they're not well-developed bodies of thought -- they are.

In addition, so now, this gets us to what is the dominant methodological tradition in economics right now, which can be thought of as marginalism, which is the idea that basically we can, again, to put it -- this as a crude way of saying this, but I'm just gonna do it anyway -- it's what we call marginalism. That we can... basically the, the idea of sort of the constrained maximization of margin, of marginal utility based on -- subject to some constraints -- it can effectively like be applied, that same principle can be applied to all have different problems. And I know like, economists might say that I'm, that this is a straw man. It's really not, like we can talk about, like, every everything, a lot of what is done in economic theory boils down to this problem. And as a result, we're ignoring a lot of like structural factors that are relevant to basically everything that we study. And so remember when I talked about... so, you know, coming back to what we were talking about before, that if improving diversity is not -- and again, we spoke about the colonization of economics -- and so we're going to talk about decolonizing. And so improving diversity is not the same as decolonizing, why on earth did I spend so much time talking about diversity and then move to decolonization? So I hope, I hope you're still with me and haven't confused you too much. And, and this is important right now, because it's given us...

So basically, decolonization involves sort of challenging and dismantling all of this. What, what we would, what I would argue is the deep process of decolonization of economics is creating an anti-colonial body of knowledge, which actually furthers the work of decolonization in the real world. And why is this discussion of diversity important? It's because because of the article that I pointed out that project road because discussions of, of, of the lack of diversity along gen... gender, racial and ethnic lines become so important. It's given us a window to talk about how thinking about decolonization and trying to decolonize the discipline actually gives us the opportunity to answer and solve these problems. And therefore, it's really more of a strategic thing. Which is why we're talking about diversity and decolonization, even though it's really not the same thing. And, and decolonization involves basically talking a lot about, about introducing pluralism of economics, non-Eurocentric standpoints of understanding things, and basically centering structural power within the study and research of the discipline.

Okay, so just what does it mean to decolonize economics? As I said, it's not only a question of diversity, which is a worthy goal in and of itself, decolonizing economics is a much larger question of challenging the way knowledge and economics is produced, including what counts as economics, who counts as an economist, where economics knowledge is housed and created. And ultimately, it's a question of recognizing the venues of power within economics and dismantling them. It's not simply about providing historical context, but to acknowledge that theories from outside the West can provide a fruitful starting point. Scholarship from the Global South, has, for example, provided important contributions to understanding subordination and uneven development. And basically, this means a work of deconolizing economics means making the economic discipline anti-colonial by dismantling structures, theorie, practices that scaffold and facilitate the maintenance of the colonial status quo. And this can only be done through centering the teaching, and research of structural power and economic discipline, which we don't do right now, given our focus on methodological individualism and marginalism as a way, as a theoretical framework, which pervades basically all other, many theoretical frameworks in the mainstream of the discipline.

Why does this matter? Okay, so why did, ...I've spoken so much about, like, diversity and decolonization in the economics profession. Why does this matter? Because economics is an extremely powerful discipline. I know I assigned two readings about like, how economics has an Africa problem and about... by my co-authors, about like, how economics has been dealing with them with the movement to decolonize. But in addition to that, what I really also wanted you to read, which you can look up, is this JParticle by Tim Mitchell called "The Work of Economics, How" -- I don't know what that, it's basically called "how economics makes its world" ["The Work of Economics: How a Discipline Makes Its World.'] The economics profession is extremely powerful. And given that we have a direct line to policymaking, and in any policy circle, economists are -- there's so many economists, so it's very important that therefore we have a good understanding of what actually, the policies that can actually achieve material decolonization and, and have a good idea of what actually causes development.

And more importantly, it's a question of scientific quality. If we're only viewing the whole world through the lens of what we, what a few people, what one theoretical framework thinks of, of what the Global North looks like, we're basically excluding important other bodies of scientific knowledge and not even engaging with them, and gatekeeping them outside of like, what could be used to understand the world. So it's a question of scientific quality and, too, it's a question of, like, economic policy injustice, in addition to that. Um, and so, um, I don't have time right now, but the idea is that like lots of people -- activists -- who really get mad at academics too, for even calling what I'm saying, the work of decolonization -- the word "decolonization" -- because they argue that decolonization is about, like, real land back and real land repatriation. And while I 100% agree with that, I think because the influence of the economics discipline is so outsized in terms of policy and creating policies that actually influence the world, that's why it's all the more important to talk about decolonizing the economics discipline right now. Um, I did have some examples in economics pedagogy about like, the different ways in which it affects not only -- like, I think it's obvious to students of development studies, like, why decolonizing development economics would be important. However, I have some examples of what we call, this actually influences my sort of sub-specialty, which is macro economics and international finance and international trade. But I'm not going to go into it right now. Um, yeah, I'm not going to go into right now.

Anyway, where do we go from here? I think, so where we go from here is that we have center power in our study of economics, which is pivotal in order to decolonize economics. And, and this has been systemically excluded and rendered less important. and it's worth reflecting on. Pluralism in terms of theoretical approach is a crucial starting point, but it's important to emphasize that not, not ... It's not like any theory goes. It has, we have to emphasize like non-... we have to de-emphasize Eurocentric traditions. Introducing diverse perspectives is extremely important, but not enough. We need a holistic approach that tackles all the different problems that I mentioned: the diversity, the lack of diversity in the identity of economists, the lack of theoretical and methodological pluralism, the problem of structural exclusion, and the universalism in economic theory. And we need, we need a holistic approach to dismantles many of these structures in the discipline.

And I did leave, as I said, I left out many things in our discussion today. And that was a huge challenge for me, like, what include and what to leave out in that this is really like a developing large agenda. So, yeah, I had to leave out discussion of economic policy, of language of textbooks, of access to universities and other material conditions that impact economics and universities and the broader society at large. Anyway, I'm going to stop here so hat we have time for questions. This is my email and my Twitter. And that's the name of the website that... for D-Econ. So if you want to, like, have any questions or comments, or you know, you just want to talk to me about it or want to send me hate mail. Go ahead. This is the place where you have to go to, to do that. And yeah, I look forward to your questions to figuring out like, how do we solve this problem? Yeah, I'm just gonna stop sharing the screen now. Thanks.

Alden Young

Ah, thank you so much, Devika. That was a great talk. And, um, and please, everyone, if you have questions, please put them in the Q&A. And we'll curate the questions through the Q&A, Q&A box. Devika, I just wanted to first start by asking if you could tell us a little bit about your own journey through economics. You know, I mean, in some ways, you presented us with many of the the drawbacks of the economics discipline, but what you know, has propelled you to seek, you know, a career in economics, what first attracted you to it? And what, what kind of things do you think that you can do with economics?

Devika Dutt

Yeah, thanks so much Alden, it's a great question. I know I pointed out -- it's, it's funny, I guess, my answer is kind of, it's kind of funny, but I'm Indian. I come from India And right now, like, our government is awful. And they like persecute any.. any, anybody who disagrees with the Government position. And they call them like, you know, all kinds of words, like traitor and anti-national and those kinds of things. And honestly, like, sometimes I feel like that way in the economic discipline. I believe, like, in 2020, I'm on Twitter, I said some like things in the economics discipline, you know, is is not good. It's doing some bad things. And I literally got hate mail and death threats. So sometimes I feel like that, like I feel like an interloper within the discipline. Even though I am an economist. I have a Ph.D. in economics. But so the reason, despite all these drawbacks, that I feel like so compelled to do this work, and why sort of saving economics for itself is so important. It's just because it's so influential and it has such a huge impact on how we think about the world. And not only how we think about the world, literally, the policies that govern how we live our lives, and therefore it's too important to sort of give up on it. And and really, like I really enjoy what I do, I think ... economics is -- again, if we broadly conceived if we take into out -- and I'm trained. So I'm trained not only in mainstream approaches, I am trained in heterodox and pluralist methodological approaches. When you take all that together, it's actually a really rich and interesting field to understand the world. And that's why political economy or classical political economy, or, again, what I do in macroeconomics and finance, I just find it not only interesting, powerful and compelling, and I do it because I love what I do.

But definitely, like, the ... getting THE training in sort of, like mainstream methods, it seemed unsatisfactory, like I was very dissatisfied because it didn't seem like that what were what I was studying, and what I was getting a training in didn't describe the world, it didn't seem like it was realistic. And so a lot of it was just sort of like trying to figure out like, how, how can I make what I'm studying what I do relevant to the rest of the world? I mean, I started out and I'm talking too much, but I'm just gonna say this one last thing, and then shut up. I guess like when we're, when we first like go to college and we're young and idealistic, we all want to change the world. And I was that person, too. I mean, in a sense, I still want to, but you know, when we want even come into college, and you come with the view, that I want to change the role, I want to make a difference. And I sort of still wanted to do that, I still want to do that. But when ... from that lens, what I was learning, was being taught and what I what I was reading didn't seem satisfactory, which is what sort of me led me to seek a heterodox education and then led me to this spot because I was dissatisfied with what I was seeing around me within the heterodoxy, given that I was trained in the United States. So yeah, so anyway, that's a long-winded me your question, but yeah.

Alden Young

No, that's a great answer. I mean, um, and it's great to hear that, you know, in many ways you believe, and um, still in the project of economics. But I was wondering if you could tell us, you know, for those of us who don't know, what does a macroeconomist do? And, and what types of problems do you solve? And also, you know, if we were to use, say, as much as we can, a kind of decolonize method, what types of answers can we derive? Or what kinds of problems could we solve?

Devika Dutt

That's a great question. Talking about macro is my favorite thing to do, so thank you for that question. So what do macroeconomists do? So when we look at the distinction, so macro, micro and metrics -- macroeconomics, microeconomics, and econometrics -- is considered the core of our training, which as I said, like economic history, economic thought, this is often not considered like core, but macro, micro and metrics are supposed to be like core economic theory that all economists need to know. But that being said, like, what macro does is look, look at the, the, the economics, economic, the economy in terms of like an aggregate as a whole. And we look at, like, how can we address problems of, to put it very simply, you know, output -- output isn't GDP -- unemployment, inflation, large questions of, like, trade balances, problems of currency and inflation. And so, so that's kind of, those are the type of questions that we look at, as macroeconomists. And it's not like, you know, there, it's not like it's not related to sort of the micro, the, the macro and the micro, like individual and household decision making is obviously connected to the macro. However, like macroeconomists, I would argue, and this is, again, now a heterodox position in macroeconomics, which is kind of funny, that the sum is greater than the, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And you can't necessarily just aggregate up from the micro to achieve the macro. But this has become a heterodox view in economics, funnily enough.

So what, so in ... and I'm so glad that you asked me, like, what can a decolinized understanding of macroeconomics bring, bring to us. And honestly, this what we're seeing right now, in understanding inflation, is a really great example. So for those who might have missed it right now, there's a huge debate on whether, sort of recovery from the pandemic, especially in the advanced industrialized nations, especially in the United States and in the European Union, is that like, has there been enough stimulus? Like has the government and the central banks put in too much money and too much fiscal support, that now we need to stop because inflation is starting to pick up? Which hasn't been, which we haven't seen in about 10 years since the financial crisis. And a lot of people are convincingly the arguing that, actually, what we're seeing right now is not a prob... not a problem of too much demand leading to too much inflation, but actually, a problem of supply. That there are supply constraints and failures of supply chains, and all kinds of other problems that are leading to like transitory improvement, sorry, increases in inflation, which will go away as the supply chain problems, sort of, alleviate.

And so why is the decolonized understanding relevant to that? So if we had seen how inflation plays out in a lot of developing economies, where the source of inflation is structural and, like, a result of a failure of supply or problems of exchange rate, or, you know, all kinds of, like, issues of supply chains. Not... I'm not saying those are the only things that cause inflation in developing economies, or, like, but, but these are some of the main problems, it would have already given us insight into what we're talking about today. The inflation discussion today would have benefited a lot if we could draw from those insights already developed. And it's not saying that we should have a universal theory, but it's to acknowledge that there can be different sources of inflation as well, which would enrich our understanding of how to think of the macro economy. So that's one example.

Another example is that how increasingly, when we're talking about again, to bring bring it back to inflation, some of the key theories of in macroeconomics is this trade off between inflation and unemployment. That's what we call the Phillips Curve. That's the key thing that the central bank has to manage: that you want to reduce unemployment, increase GDP growth, but not at the cost of high inflation. And that's supposed to be a trade-off. But, you know, how do we understand employment? Or what do we, what do we, how do we even define employment with increasing amounts of, like gig work? And are they employed, are they unemployed? What are they? Like, and again, like, developing economies are characterized by informal employment, where it's not even, one could argue it's not even possible to define employment. And so a lot of that discussion would have benefitted the discussion that we're having today in, like, macroeconomics at large, and what does that mean for this inflation-unemployment trade-off. So things like this, like this, this : a decolonized understanding, a context- dependent, and saying that they're, they're valuable starting points from outside of like this sort of monolithic developed sort of world, which are important to macro, would have, I think, benefited from like a deep ... would , would, is as an example of how decolonized understanding would benefit macro. Yeah.

Alden Young

No, thank you. I think that's very helpful. And one last question, then I'll open it up to the audience. I was wondering if you could say a little bit about why you think that there is a growing movement to diversify and decolonize economics at this moment? Are they you know, to what extent, there's historical events have like, kind of pushed us to this point?

Devika Dutt

Definitely. I think, as Jennifer pointed out, in her introduction, the, the institutional murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, definitely, like, created a reckoning, even for, like, racial discrimination and, and questions of colonialism and imperialism within the economics discipline. Of course, a lot of it was limited to, again, questions of, like, improving diversity and improving the representation of black economists within the field. Which again, like, it's a very important, a very worthy goal. And in itself, it's important. However, like, this movement to decolonize has still not... I mean, I think it's still new. And it's sort of borrowing from other disciplines. And as I said, like, I wouldn't say that we're the only group talking about decolonizing economics, but we are one of the few because, as I pointed out, a lot of, like, economists are very proud about how our field has sort of been immune from interventions of sort of post-modernism and postcolonialism in terms of theory in economics. In fact, there's this famous article called "Economic Imperialism" by Edward Lazear in 1994, which you can read, where he like, boasts about how economics is awesome, because, you know, we don't have these problems. But anyway, like, the point is that it's still new, it's still nascent, and it's not like, you know, we're saying something new. I think because of this moment of talking about diversity, it's become, like more relatable [?] to talk about decolonization as well, and, and the exclusion of like, heterodox approaches and theoretical Eurocentrism. It's become possible because of the moment that we're in. So definitely, it's not like out of the blue. It's not in a vacuum. It's definitely related to what's happening right now, yeah.

Alden Young

From, from Zebo, we have a question. She asked, the working paper "Standing in the Way of Rigor" focuses on the perspectives of economics educators and professionals and their opinions on the decolonization of the field. It describes student movements for the decolonization of a general pedagogy in recent years, namely those in the Global South. Have you witnessed a greater drive for the decolonization of economics curriculum within student communities in recent years? How does this push within the economics field compare to other fields? And what roles do you see students having and driving the decolonization of economics pedagogy?

Devika Dutt

That's a great question. Thank you so much. And I think, like, I think students have a really important role to play, especially because the neoliberal university, funnily enough, looks at students as consumers and customers, and often what students want, students get. Or at least they have, like, they put pressure on university administrations and departments to do what they would like. And you know, sometimes they don't succeed. And of course, students are often in a precarious position and they're not going necessarily make too many demands, but there's definitely a moment that we're in has, has brought to the ... has brought to the fore several issues and, and gaps in what their education is like. And so there is a, as you must have read in the article, we reference, I mean, my co-authors, they reference, the movement from South Africa, about fees must fall and, you know, sort of to challenge the, you know, fees must fall, Rhodes must fall, referring to Cecil Rhodes, and the impact on like, several colonial, several formerly colonial countries that, yeah, I'm sure you're familiar with Cecil Rhodes. And so those movements are very important. And, you know, like, these are all movements to decolonize because I think, you know, as I said, material decolonization is important and improving access is important. All these are like part of the same movement.

So there's definitely been increases. However, I think, like ... so in this book, our final chapter is about, like, actual strategies about, like, whatdifferent groups people can do, what students can do, or departments can do, what journal editors can do and what teachers can do to decolonize the discipline. So I know that was like, a very scattered answer. But yes, and there's a lot that you can do. And one of the ways that a lot of times, students would ask the question like, how do we know like, how do we know what to demand? Like, how do we know that what we're getting is a very, like, sort of colonized view of the economy. And I would argue there's like two things that you can do immediately. One, sort of like, really read broadly. Read, read figuring out, like -- so again, this is not a plug for D-Econ with our reading lists -- so to sort of, like, have a larger, more holistic view of the economy from different, from different lenses. So you can look at, take a look at that, we produce like two reading lists bi-annually -- every year, sorry. Biannually, we have reading lists, so you can take a look at that. And in addition, you guys in development studies, students, outside of the discipline, like, read read political science, read, read... So if you're looking at a specific issue, don't only approach it from economics, because a lot of times like other disciplines have a lot more and more interesting things to say, that can influence how we view the economy. So those are two things. And yeah, just, just forming groups and demand better and more from your professors in your department. So, yeah.

Alden Young

No, thank you so much. And now from from Galaan Hayle, we have a question. Speaking of decolonizing economies and economics, the first question that comes to my mind is can economics be legitimat.. be legitimately decolonized, given the fact that economics is wedded to the project of capitalism and the nation state? To put it bluntly, is a non- capitalist economics a theoretical possibility? If possible, what does that entail?

Devika Dutt

That's sucha great question. And I think that's a very critical and important question to ask. And, as I said, I'm hopeful and I think it's possible, yes. However, it would mean a, I think, a completely revolutionizings what we think of as economics and largely discarding the mainstream of the field and starting from heterodox theoretical approaches that start from talking about questions of power. For instance, Marxian economic starts from, like, questions of class struggle, if you read about imperialism, they talk about, like, again, they start, they start out from talking about how the development of capitalism is intimately connected to colonialism and imperialism, and to this day continues. And so it's definitely possible. It means that what we know as economics now would not look like economics in the future, if we achieve some kind of like progress towards decolonization, it means that it will be radically different from what we, what we know as economics right now. And in addition, apart from, like, arguing that it's possible, it's extremely important that we try to make it so, given the outsized influence economists has on policy in the world at large. So yes, it's possible. And do we really need to do this? So, yeah.

Alden Young

Now we have a question from Laura Mitchell. I'm very interested to hear you say more. I'm very interested to hear you say more about universalism in economics. I'm an economically curious historian, not a trained economist or economic historian. From that perspective, it seems to me that economics explains Marxists and Smithian capitalism. So if economics were to seriously engage with other logics, practices of production and exchange, in West Africa, for instance, would this form of study and analysis still be economics?

Devika Dutt

Yes, absolutely. Again, the ... we economists have a horrible, horrible trait of gatekeeping, of like, this is economics, this is not economics. I would argue that, in fact, like, broadly, again, if you speak to heterodox, non-mainstream economists, we would argue that yes, to look at economics, the economy and the political economy, from from different lenses is extremely important. To not only get a richer understanding of actual, like, socioeconomic phenomena. And I say economy, I have a problem with saying that, because it's all embedded in, like, a political, social, cultural milieu. So it's very hard to, like, separate the economy from all of that. But yes, it's very important to, to analyze economics from various different lenses. And definitely, like, the regional specificity is extremely important. Even if people say that that's not economics, it, it doesn't mean one, that it's not and two, it doesn't mean that people who are broadly interested in political economy, which includes political scientists, sociologists and, and heterodox economists, would not learn from your work. And you know, again, like you, I don't know, this is a practical question.

And if it is, I have to tell you, that when it comes to policy and policy organizations, a lot of them, they're not wedded, at least, not all policy organizations, are wedded to this idea of this sort of methodologically narrow view of economics and the economy. Some of them are. And so unfortunately, those are the most powerful ones, like the World Bank, IMF, etc. But there's also a lot of other ones which are not so wedded, like, they want to know what works. And for that, you just need to, like, get out there and study the real world. Whatever tools you have, whatever theories you have at your disposal, it doesn't matter if you necessarily stick to like, what the Journal says of economics, what the top five journals of the Harvard economists says economics, it's not important. But yeah, like, that's... as a heterodox economist, those, those, those things are often leveled at, you know, people like us. It's okay. We're still, as I said, like, as an actual consultant, I still consult with policy organizations, I still have a saying, like, what goes into these things? So? And yeah, I don't... I find mainstream economics not convincing. And I don't use it in my own research and teaching anyway. So yes, yes, to all of that.

Alden Young

From Zachary Werner, we have a question. Are there any, I guess, economic -- he says economic firms, but maybe economic organizations in the U.S. or other parts of the world -- that are really pushing to decolonize economics or trying, or do you see certain people gatekeeping and, and, you know, blocking a more pluralist approach to economics?

Devika Dutt

Are there organizations? So as I said, like part of, first of all, my organization, we do that. In other parts of the world. So like, again, I'm not sure you'll find this articulation of decolonizing economics, per se. I do think there's a group in the UK, which calls themselves Decolonizing Economics, but apart from that, there's also, you know, like movements to improve representations give you a chance to bring in all these other aspects that I pointed out. So there's... in the UK, there's the black economist network. In the U.S., there's us, there's the Sadie Collective that is looking at specifically improving representation of Black women economists, or like numbers of black women economists. Um, as far as, like, policy organizations go within the U.S., I'm not certain okay, because even within the US, right, like when I pointed out, like, what does it mean to decolonize economics in the U.S., it also means that we look at how what we think of economics doesn't really work for all parts of the economy, you know. So, for example, I talk a lot about like unemployment and inflation. Right now, the Federal Reserve has indicated that they're going to raise interest rates in March. But a lot of economists who happen to be... who are black economists, actually argue that when we look at the unemployment rate and break it down by race, you will find that the ratio ... like, unemployment amongst black Americans is still much higher, so it's too premature to, you know, to be raising interest rates. So, you know, like, I don't know if there's like a group of organized people who, who advocate for this. If... I mean, there's the American Economic Association, there's there's a Committee on the Status of the -- the acronym is CSGMEBF, I forget what it stands for. So you can follow like their work in general. Globally, organizations such as UNCTAD has historically played a huge role in sort of, like, being a UN organization, of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, who have played a huge role in sort of like playtingi a counter to sort of the, the monolithic, structural adjustment sort of type of programs. Bretton Woods Project is another one. And I know of like several research groups that do the same as well. Um, yeah, if you write to me, I might like, can give you like, think about a little bit more and give you a list of these organizations, if you want to follow their work. Yeah.

Alden Young

I think just following up on that, there's a question, let's see, oh, from Amanda Martin. Um, Amanda Martin wants to know, is it possible for international economic institutions, such as the IMF and World Bank, to help the movement towards decolonizing economics? How much hope can we have in these powerful institutions to change? And I guess, maybe following up on your own experience working with international organizations, and you started bringing it up, like UNCTAD and other, you know, maybe parallel international organizations, but to what extent do policymaking organizations hew closely to the lines of mainstream economics? Or do they improvise as they tackle problems in the world?

Devika Dutt

It's a bit of both. Honestly, like I don't, I do think that organizations like the IMF and World Bank are very, very conservative. I recently finished. So before I was consulting for the WHO, I was doing a project with the International Labour Organization. And it took a long time to just publish those results in which I was looking at the conditions that are coming along with IMF loans in 2020, which basically, the COVID here, I think, started the pandemic. And to show that, you know, like, even though the IMF claims that it's sort of like not, it's not promoting austerity policies, or structural adjustment-type policies anymore, what we show in that paper is that, actually, there's a lot of continuity, and they're still like pushing for fiscal consolidation and austerity in, during a pandemic. And so, you know, like, I'm, I was a measly consultant for the ILO. However, like, that empirical work, it took a long time for them to sort of like to make it through the bureaucracy of ILO because it was not, you know, it was problematic for them tom like, critique the IMF, because they're kind of part of the same international global policymaking infrastructure.

And so, so, so yeah, I mean, it's, it's a bit of both, some of them are more conservative than others, but definitely, like, a lot of them. I don't, I personally don't think it's possible to decolonize the IMF and World Bank because they're, like, so fundamentally colonial institutions, unless we sort of like change the governance of these institutions, which again, like, it's not like they're ... there are so many important movements that are actually pushing for change and actually succeeding and making it happen. In fact, the fact that, like the IMF is also on the backfoot and actually saying that, you know, austerity doesn't work. That's actually the official line, if you look at their research, that austerity doesn't work. And so that has been a result of decades of move..., of activists pushing for change, and to a certain extent, successfully. So certain organizations are definitely more resistant to change and are more sort of wedded to economic orthodoxy. However, there's also like a large number of organizations that are more progressive and are more, like, likely to change and to promote change. I just don't think the IMF and World Bank is one of them. But. that's just you know, again, that's my opinion. A lot of people will disagree with that, and that's fine. So, yeah.

Alden Young

That sort of segues into an interesting question about the boundaries of economics, because I guess we usually think of the international architecture of international organizations as maybe a question of international relations or political science. And then we think of macro economics as something different. But I was wondering if you know, if an decolonized approach, those kinds of boundary ... those kinds disciplinary boundaries really work?

Devika Dutt

Yeah, I mean, as one, as I was talking before, like, what can students do is to read beyond and educate themselves beyond what i,s the what is considered the narrow confines of the economic discipline. I do think interdisciplinarity is crucial in the arsenal of any social scientist. Like, why limit yourself to just one disciplinary approach when we have different types of people looking at the same question from different perspectives and having their own kind of methodological and theoretical approaches to answer that question? So, definitely, I don't think it's possible to separate the two. I call myself a political economist, because I do think it's in the tradition of classical political economy, you can't separate like economics from other social sciences, and there's so much that economics has to learn from other social scientists, social sciences, that it makes no sense to have that separation. And most definitely, like questions of macro cannot, as I said, and you read out in my introduction, my specialization is also international political economy and questions of finance, because you... I find it very hard to separate them, and I, my own research borrows a lot from research on an international political economy and tracking international relations and hegemonic stability theory, which again, is kind of what I borrow from to inform my own work. And definitely, I don't think it's, it's beneficial to remain within disciplinary boundaries. Of course, like, you know, as I said, I'm, I'm trained in a particular thing. But yeah, the challenge is to definitely have a more porous boundary between disciplines and collaborate where you can with others. I've learned so much from people in other fields, from historians like Alden, and yeah, political scientists and sociologists, that it makes no sense to confine ourselves to just one view and one way of thinking.

Alden Young

Caroline Hussein asked, she would like to, she says, you know, we talk about decolonization a lot, but she wants to hear more about post-capitalist and community economies or economics.

Devika Dutt

Um, that's a great question, guys. And thank you so much. Honestly, like, I, I don't, I don't have the answers to those questions. That's outside of my wheelhouse. But I would like to hear from people who actually have done research about it. I do think like, it's, yeah, I ... just to say one thing, like we, I, it's hard for me to definitively say, it's hard. It shouldn't be hard for anybody to definitively say what the future would look like. And, you know, economists have a particularly bad reputation in terms of, like, prediction and forecasting. So I don't want to go there, honestly. But at the same time, like, yeah, I would rather hear from people who know more about it than me. But whatever, like, it has to be collectively determined. I don't think that on,e I know or, two, I can say how, how it should be. So yeah, sorry, for the unsatisfactory answer.

Alden Young

That's fine. Now, thank you so much. And then some people want to know if we can do more. Vipin Krishna wants to know if we can do more with experimental economics, such as the recent Nobel Prize winner on the UBI [Universal Basic Income]. And could such methods be used in decolonization?

Devika Dutt

Um, yeah, sure. I mean, I think it's, it's not that they can't. I think it's the way we approach the questions and the theoretical frame that we use. So experimental economics is often about, like, when we're gonna, we're gonna do like, we're gonna, we're gonna do like, I don't want to say lab experiments, but kind of like lab experiments -- running a study basically, like, in simulated conditions and asking to... you know, like how people would behave and how they would react to sort of inform either economic theory or policy. And it's... I wouldn't like to rule out that it's not important. The, for me, it's like, that is also not atheoretical, that's also not necessarily like devoid of any kind of theoretical content. And therefore, my question would be, like, what is it that you're trying to answer with that tool?

So for ... I would view experimental economics not so much as a theoretical subdiscipline or subwhatever, but actually a tool to answer different questions. So our theoretical and historical and methodological standpoint that you use to then test your theory or uncertain question is important. So right off the bat, like, I, I, can't say one thing or the other because it really depends on, like, what are you trying to answer, what is the question you're trying to answer and why is it that you're approaching it in that way? My, my colleague, my co-author, Ingrid, and certainly they're both development economists and they've written extensively. I mean, randomized control trials are not experimental economics. I think those are different things, though related things. And a lot of like, economists, argue that RCTs are basically like, you know, we're just testing purity, we're just doing an experiment, a natural experiment based on -- it's not, like, theoretically loaded, it's not historically loaded. And they convincingly argue, I think, that it is.

And, for instance, so there was an infamous study in -- a couple years back -- in which World Bank economists, they were looking at why people in not necessarily low-income, but a lower-to-middle income neighborhood, I want to say in Kenya, weren't paying their water bill, like, what is, why, what -- how can they improve the recovery of water bill of the payment of water bills from people in this neighborhood? And, and they basically, like, for part of the neighborhood, they cut off the water supply. And they found in their RCD, that, "Oh, my God, people start paying the water bill." And and to me, it's like, OK, one, why did you think they were not paying it just because they didn't want to? Or, like, they were lazy, and they were just taking advantage of it? Or, you know, what, what is the initial starting point? Because it seems obvious to me that if you cut off access to a necessity, people will do whatever it takes to make sure they get that necessity back.

Now, what is the takeaway from this? That they should threaten cutting off water, a necessity, to ensure that there's a greater recovery of payment for water? I'm not sure why this needs this kind of a study, like very recently, just right now, this is doing the rounds on Twitter, that if you give pregnant mothers income support and nutritional support, you can see immediately that there's an increase in the brain activity of their fetuses. So I'm like, why do we need this experiment to show that you shouldn't let pregnant mothers go hungry? Like, you know, I don't understand like, what, what, what is, what are we achieving by pouring millions of dollars into studies like these? And what is the theoretical thing that we're trying to answer? So anyway, I would I, again, development economics is not really my area of specialty, I would highly encourage you to read the work of Ingrid Kvangraven and Surbhi Kesar. It's really good, really compelling. And yeah, they show why, you know, it's not devoid, it's not, it's not something that you can just plonk onto... a theoretical and historical sort of understanding of economics. Yeah.

Alden Young

Well, thank you so much. I mean, I guess maybe just because, you know, we're in a broad audience with people maybe who aren't deep into subfields of development, you know, the different types of economics, you could say a little bit about, you know, what makes, say, development economics different than, say, macroeconomics? And then, and then we have a question from Leo Wing, who wants to know, if there's any additional complementary literature that you would recommend about diverse economics? And or decolonizing economics? Or I guess maybe we can include heterodox? And if, if those are different?

Devika Dutt

Ah, yeah. So, so the question of development economics, the end of the day is like, what, how can we achieve development? That's the key problematic that we're looking at, and the different ways, like, different ways to understand underdevelopment and what are the policies and basically, institutions, that can prob... solve the problem, solve the problems of poverty, inequality, deprivation -- all those bad things and improve welfare and growth and basically improve the lives of lots of people who right now don't live in the condition that there's... that is conducive for, um, the flourishing of human life, basically -- which is the case for a large part of the world. And so that's basically the key problematic of development economics.

And again, like, I wouldn't argue that there's such clear distinctions between these sub-disciplines, it's just that like, yeah, some people like focus exclusively on that, and therefore we call them development economics. But of course, I get we have to be informed of what's happening in the rest of the field, in general, as well. Um, as far as like, reading beyond... So it depends, since you guys are students in development studies. I'm going to talk about some like texts and stuff that you can read in order to understand heterodox perspectives on economics. And I guess like I would, I would recommend reading dependency theorists and world systems theories. Walter Rodney, "How Europe Underdeveloped Africa" -- absolute must read. Kwame Nkruhmah on imperialism -- absolute must read. You can also read Raul Prebisch, again, that's a bit more technical and looking at problem of sort of dependency and development Lat... in Latin America, once again, like, absolute must read. Also, you know, just find... so again, broadly, I would recommend reading dependency theory, world system theory and Samir Amin, honestly, just go ahead and crack that open. I know I mean, again, since again, it's not my specialty. I'm conscious that I recommended all men, and that's not okay. I can tell you about macro, if you want, um. Yeah, actually, yeah.

Alden Young

What would they read a macro?

Devika Dutt

Macro, unfortunately, you have to go back to sort of reading a lot of like Keynesian and Marxist economists, again, macro economists. You can think of John Robinson, again, pretty technical. So you can find people who've written about macro issues on Joan Robinson. I would argue also, one of my favorite economists of all time is Michał Kalecki, who was underappreciated because he wrote in Polish around the same time that Keynes was writing in English and a lot of overlap between what Keynes and Michał Kalecki were writing, however, like, Kalecki has the more political economy view. One of my favorite articles of all time was called "The Political Aspects of Full Employment." It's like four pages long, super approachable, extremely sharp, extremely clear. One of the best things I've ever read in the discipline. So stuff like that, yeah. But definitely, like, if you want to broaden your understanding of development, of development, economics, definitely world systems and dependency theory is... It's now making a comeback, actually, and as Isaid, Ingrid is our resident dependency theorist. So I would highly recommend reading her because she's really good and really clear and really sharp. There's a lot about this, for sure.

Alden Young

Well, thank you so much. I'll just ask one final question. And then I think we'll we'll close out. Oh, and also, isn't there a special issue that came out not long ago on some Euro men's work? And, and are there any topics like Peggy McInerny, McInerny, is asking, are there any topics that like, maybe we're missing because we're not taking diverse, decolonized approaches to economics, they maybe aren't gathering as much attention as you know, they, they deserve? But yeah, I think this is the final question. And thank you so much.

Devika Dutt

Um, yeah, no, this has been great. If there are topics that you're missing, that's a really difficult question, because it's not so much that they're necessarily missing topics, it's often that you're missing frames of reference. So I mentioned, like, talking about supply chain issues, and now talk about supply chain is like all the rave. But there's this really good book by this Indonesian economist called Intan Suwandi, which is looking at supply chains and global value chains as economic imperialism. So you know, like, it's not that we're missing topics, it's often that we're missing different ways of viewing things within economics and sort of... And, I think, Intan Suwandi, I forget if she's actually trained as an economist or not, not that it matters. I think her book is extremely influential, at least in my understanding of value chains and supply chains. So I wouldn't be sure... I'm not so sure about whether we're missing topics. I think we're missing frames of reference. So but you know, like, again, if you're, if you're studying something and you want, um, I don't know, like, advice or feedback, I would argue, like, ask your professors, I think they can help you. And or you can always like, email me. If I can't help, I can direct you in the right direction.

Alden Young

Thank you so much Devika for a wonderful talk.

Devika Dutt

No, thank you so much. And I hope it, I know, I hope it wasn't too rambley or too much. And as I said, feel free to reach out to me or, again, if you don't like what I say send me hate mail. It's all good. So and yeah, thanks a lot for listening. Jennifer, you're muted.

Jennifer Jihye Chun

Thank you. So no matter how often we're on Zoom, I always have this problem. But I wanted to thank you so much Devika for sharing your really important research and also the many insights that you have. And really, I think, the agenda that you put on the table -- the urgency, the need, the stakes of decolonizing economics -- are not only important for students of development, but for all of us, right? And I think you, you really, it's wonderful to kind of hear all of the people that we should read and reread, as well as also recognize that part of this struggle is that there has been so much good work that has been done already. But it's consistently marginalized, devalued, undermined and so part of the work of decolonizing economics is recovering that and also bringing it into kind of the arena of really valued, but urgent, discussion. So thank you so much and for being so generous with the students in my class, but also all of us who are here today, and we look forward to continuing this conversation.

Also, thank you so much to Alden, Professor Young, for facilitating this really fantastic conversation. And Alden will also be spearheading another event on February 24th, on revolutionary Sudan. So please keep a lookout for details and we will send that information as we have it. Thank you, everyone, and enjoy the afternoon.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai


Duration: 01:32:14

Decolonizing-Economics-ih-3ey.mp3



Image for RSVP Button

Download file: 2022-Dutt-Global-Racism-series.v3-gj-zf4.pdf

27 Jan 22
2:00 PM - 3:30 PM

Save the Date

Sharing Tools

Link copied!