Only two names appear on the cover of this book, but don’t let that fool you. Economy Studies, both the book and the accompanying website, is a cooperative effort built with contributions of some 180 people. Sprawling as it is, we simply could not have written it alone, nor would we have wanted to. In this chapter, we want to tell you a bit about the process of this project, and honour the many people who made remarkable contributions to this effort.
1. Building on a Wider Movement
The story of Economy Studies is inseparable from the international student movement Rethinking Economics. Over the past decade, Rethinkers have pointed out gaps in the curriculum, argued for different material and conducted thorough curriculum reviews. Many staff members and faculties turned out to be quite interested in our proposals. Still, they generally found it hard to implement such requests, being so used to the familiar curriculum. Hence the idea germinated in Rethinking Economics meetings to make an example curriculum.
We did not want to reinvent the wheel, but rather assemble the best work from the generations that came before us. So, we reached out to a wide range of seasoned academics around the world, hoping to tap into their collective knowledge and wisdom. Overwhelmed by the breadth and depth of the responses, we have continued this practice throughout the writing process. These economists freed up some of their precious time to respond to one or more of our requests for feedback. Some of them we already knew through classes or conferences, many others had so far just been revered names in our bookcases. Each time, we were honoured and humbled by the many responses, often going in great detail.
Thank you, for many hundreds of valuable comments and suggestions: Maarten Allers, Viviana Asara, Roger Backhouse, Andrea Bernardi, Dirk Bezemer, Olivier Blanchard, Mark Blyth, Peter Boettke, Frank Bohn, Ivan Boldyrev, Wimar Bolhuis, Marcel Boumans, Björn Brügemann, Govert Buijs, Brian Burgoon, Koen Byttebier, Marcel Canoy, Wendy Carlin, Edward Cartwright, Mario Cedrini, Ha-Joon Chang, David Colander, Chris Colvin, Harry Commandeur, Marcella Corsi, Carlo D’Ippoliti, Dirk Damsma, Charlie Dannreuther, Thomas Dark, Marc Davidson, John Davis, Samuel Decker, David Dequech, Giovanni Dosi, Sheila Dow, Robert Dur, Wolfram Elsner, Ewald Engelen, Christian Felber, Thomas Ferguson, Alfredo S. Filho, Ben Fine, Svenja Flechtner, Nancy Folbre, James Galbraith, Pieter Gautier, James Gerber, Reyer Gerlagh, Teresa Ghilarducci, Neva R. Goodwin, William Greene, Roel Grol, Roelf Haan, Marco Haan, Johan Heilbron, Walter Hulsker, Geoffrey Hodgson, Lex Hoogduin, Brigitte Hoogendoorn, Bas Jacobs, William Janeway, Tae-Hee Jo, Steve Keen, Piet Keizer, Stephanie Kelton, Alan Kirman, Arjo Klamer, Alfred Kleinknecht, Theo Kocken, Ingrid H. Kvangraven, Tony Lawson, William Lazonick, Henry Leveson-Gower, Stefano Lucarelli, Jasper Lukkezen, Bengt-Ake Lundvall, Bart Los, Harro Maas, Senna Maatoug, Olga Mikheeva, William Milberg, Irene Monasterolo, Stephanie Mudge, Daniel Mügge, Felix Munoz-Garcia, Richard Nelson, Bart Nooteboom, Erik Olsen, Sander Onderstal, Carlota Perez, Thomas Piketty, Jan Potters, Menno Pradhan, Pratistha J. Rajkarnikar, Kate Raworth, Jack Reardon, Geert Reuten, Maarten P. Schinkel, Philippe C. Schmitter, Geoff Schneider, Dirk Schoenmaker, Henning Schwardt, Molly Scott Cato, Esther-Mirjam Sent, Anwar Shaikh, Robert Skidelsky, Clive Spash, Joseph Stiglitz, Coen Teulings, Tim Thornton, Rob Timans, Bas van Bavel, Harry van Dalen, Eric van Damme, Hendrik van den Berg, Wypkje van der Heide, Frank van der Salm, Joël van der Weele, Ger van Gils, Charan van Krevel, Hans van Ophem, Jan van Ours, Erwin van Sas, Jarig van Sinderen, Irene van Staveren, Rens van Tilburg, Jacco van Uden, Olav van Vliet, Arjen van Witteloostuijn, Olav Velthuis, Jan Verhoeckx, Koen Vermeylen, Jack Vromen, Robert Went, William White, Randall Wray and Kim Zwitserloot.
In the first round, before starting our own writing process, we simply asked this group of seasoned academics a few open questions. How would they define the economy, what should the core principles of a good economics education be, what courses or programmes did they find inspiring, and what it was that made these courses and programmes so worthwhile? These responses, together with many pages of notes from Rethinking Economics gatherings, would form the basis of our new curriculum proposal.
2. A Process of Crowdsourcing
We quickly realised that it would be impossible to write ‘the perfect curriculum’. Rethinking Economics is at its core a movement for pluralism, and does not intend to replace the current, relatively standardised curriculum with a single alternative. This does not mean that we do not have a coherent view. It just means that it encompasses diversity of theories, methods, values, people, and programmes. We agreed, however, on the major gaps in current programmes, the basic tenets for future programmes, the design principles, and on the general direction we envision for economics education.
This, we decided, would be the form of our curriculum proposals: a modular, open-ended design toolkit built on a clear foundation of guiding principles. The core: teach students to study the economy using a broad and open-ended toolkit, rather than drilling them in a specific manner of thinking about it. Such a modular approach has two advantages. For its writers, it allowed for a collaborative and diverse yet coherent vision to emerge from a broad reform movement. For its users, it offers a menu and a variety of tools, rather than a fully formed ‘take it or leave it’ alternative structure.
Our first rough draft, just 70 pages long, saw the light of day at a long weekend workshop in January 2019, where it was picked apart and put together again lovingly by Daniel Obst, Eric Sargent, Alexandra Sokolenko, and Sally Svenlen. Special thanks here go to Ross Cathcart, Cameron Fay, and J. Christopher Proctor, who have acted as this project’s godfathers from start to finish. We are grateful to the Independent Social Research Foundation for funding this workshop. Following this workshop, we took eight months to come to a fuller draft, including much more detailed building blocks, detailed lists of materials and a full version of the Pragmatic Pluralism approach.
In September 2019, we went back for more comments. We once again sent out the manuscript, now around 150 pages, to the same group of professors, and again were honoured to receive many pages of valuable feedback. In the year that followed, we processed their comments, additions, critiques and other suggestions to create a new manuscript. We then organised a final round of feedback in the summer of 2020. We went back to the group of seasoned academics mentioned in the list above for a final time, now sending them each one or two relevant chapters to receive more in-depth thematic feedback. At the same time, a group of about twenty rethinkers edited one chapter per week per person for about two months, ensuring that every chapter would pass through many pairs of eyes and hands.
Thank you, to our fellow Rethinkers: Ryan Berelowitz, Elisa Terragno Bogliaccini, Merve Burnazoglu, Charlotte Cator, Michela Ciccotosto, Maeve Cohen, Sebastián Muena Cortés, Eric Decker, Joe Earle, Clara Etchenique, Mads Falkenfleth Jensen, Rita Guimarães, Oliver Hanney, Laurence Jones-Williams, Maarten Kavelaars, Anne Kervers, Liv Anna Lindman, Maria Georgouli Loupi, Cahal Moran, Carles Paré Ogg, Hanna Oosterveen, Ben Pringle, Francis Ostermeijer, Henri Schneider, Vera Veltman, Maarten Vermeir and Tree Watson. Special thanks go to Rethinkers Jamie Barker and Kristin Dilani Nadarajah, for close reading many more of the chapters and sculpting our rough prose into more refined and accurate formulations throughout the book.
3. Constructing the Toolkit: An Iterative Process
Throughout the writing process, we also held some twenty try-out workshops and discussions to broaden and sharpen the work. Many thanks go to the organisers of all these workshops, conferences and gatherings: the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), the Dutch Ministry of Finance, the Oikos and Netzwerk Plurale Ökonomik student movements, The Hague University of Applied Sciences (THUAS), the Italian Association for the History of Political Economy (STOREP), the Goldschmeding Foundation and the Commission for Education, Culture and Science of the Dutch House of Representatives. We especially wish to thank the Rethinking Economics staff team, who have brought together such an extraordinary worldwide network of young academic freethinkers so many times. This book could not have been written without your tireless organising behind the scenes. In addition, the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Radboud University of Nijmegen, Utrecht University and Leiden University provided inspiring discussions and use cases of early drafts.
The try-out workshops also helped to sharpen another component of the project: course design workshops at economics faculties, using an abbreviated version of the Economy Studies toolkit for the initial brainstorming. In November 2020, Rethinking Economics International organised an Economy Studies Expert Training, where Rethinkers from five different continents came together online for four weeks to discuss the book and how to conduct such workshops in their own region. The feedback from the participants in this series of sessions sharpened the workshop format in many ways.
It was in these workshops that the book grew to take its final size and shape. Through discussions with fellow Rethinkers and many academics, we came to realise that a curriculum proposal or a set of building blocks with guiding principles alone was not enough: it needed a head and a tail. So, we fleshed out the Foundations more clearly, and added several more Tools chapters to get closer to the practical realities of everyday teaching work, such as Adapting Existing Courses and Learning Objectives. All this greatly expanded the book’s waistline, to the dismay of our publishers. Still, we believe it is worth it, as the project’s range is now much more complete: from basic principles to practical application within a single framework.
Throughout this process, we had a steady and warm home at the independent Dutch think tank Our New Economy. We are very grateful for the unwavering support and wide variety of help given by our great crew of colleagues: Sjaak Beirnaert, Peter Mulder, Maarten Nijman, Esther Somers, Martijn Jeroen van der Linden and Danny Verdonk: from brainstorming sessions and feedback to connecting with faculties to organise workshops, and from dissemination strategy to social media. Special thanks go to Charlotte van Dixhoorn, for a close edit of more than half of the book and to Julika Frome for helping us out with communications and organising the book launch. Anne de Kok helped us to build a beautiful website accompanying the book.
At Amsterdam University Press, Inge van der Bijl patiently and constructively guided us through every step of the publication process. At Matterhorn, Bob van den Berg crafted the wonderful designs for every page of this book. We are also very grateful that Martin Wolf took the time to write such a powerful and incisive foreword – it feels like the missing puzzle piece of the book.
We also want to thank our friends and families for their support. In particular, we want to thank Tane Nieuweboer, Katrien Eisenloeffel and Marion Molliet for putting up with us during this writing process, which was often in the evenings, weekends and holidays, and all the stresses that came with it.
All remaining errors are, of course, our own. In addition, as the main authors of this book are two young white university educated middle-class men from the Netherlands, the book has an inevitable bias towards our own experiences. We hope that you, the reader, will help us to make the next edition sharper and richer, by pointing out errors and omissions and suggesting better teaching materials and techniques.
We also hope you will take the project further. The book and website are Open Access and Creative Commons, which means they can be freely shared and adapted: you may download digital copies of the book for free. You may also copy and redistribute this material in any medium or format, remix, transform, and build upon the material for any purpose, even commercially. We very much hope you will do so.