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Workshop – “Interrogating Economics in the Public Sphere”

Workshop – “Interrogating Economics in the Public Sphere”

On the 18th and 19th of April 2013, the project will host a workshop on “Interrogating Economics in the Public Sphere”. The event will bring together historians, sociologists, and media analysts to review the outlying literatures on public economic knowledge. In an intense but informal setting we will review scholarship on history of science, political and economic history and sociology. Our challenge is to elaborate on the research questions and the research agenda that will explore the connections and overlaps between economic journalism, the public production of knowledge, and knowledge as communicative practice.

Preliminary programme

Venue: Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Free School Lane, CB2 3RH, Cambridge.

Thursday 18 April

14:00-14:45 – Workshop registration/check-in

14:45-15:00 – Introduction

15:00-17:00 – Panel I: The public understanding of economics: A recent media history

The compelling questions, ambiguities and contradictions that lay at the heart of efforts to intellectualise the production of economic knowledge in the public sphere can be traced back to the Enlightenment. This panel analyses the relationship between economic ideas, and their audiences, by providing a historically informed examination of more recent changes in the forms, and forums, which have mediated them.

  • Raymond Boyle (University of Glasgow), “The BBC, Journalism and the business of Economics.”
  • Tim Rogan (University of Cambridge), “The General Theory on Film: Michael Polanyi and the Public Understanding of Economics.”
  • Simon Potter (Bristol University), “The Press and the Public Understanding of Economics of Empire, c. 1900-1914.”
  • Jane Chapman (Lincoln University), “Counter-Intuitive Relationships between Economics and Ideology in Newspaper and Comic Strip Representations and Usage pre – 1945.“
  • Scott Anthony (University of Cambridge), chair and discussant.

17:30-18:30 – Donald MacKenzie (University of Edinburgh), “Financial modelling as culture”


18:30-19:45 – Wine reception

Friday 19 April

9:00-11:00 – Panel II: Social sciences and the media’s role in finance and financialization

Finance and financialization are core features of contemporary capitalism. Since the 1980s’ reforms financial markets expanded new ways of seeking profit, spawning new instruments of valuation and credit, new mathematical models, and new economic terminologies, such as ‘securitization’ and ‘derivatives’. The 2008 crisis exposed both the importance and the fragility of financial markets, drawing attention to the power relations between the market, the state and society. This panel will discuss the media’s role in finance and financialization. It aims to explore the links between journalism, economics and the public sphere, as well as between the social sciences and financialization.

  • Tomás Undurruga (University of Cambridge), chair.
  • Aeron Davis (Goldsmiths), “Media as a communicative space for the cooptation of non-financial stakeholder elites into financialization.”
  • Karel Williams (CRESC, University of Manchester), “Social invention and disappointment: the salaried intelligentsia and financialisation in the UK.”
  • Daniel Beunza (LSE), “Persuading the markets: Spain and financial communication with bond investors during the sovereign debt crisis.”
  • Maurice Glasman (London Metropolitan University), “The invisible German economy.  Why the media are trapped in the same orthodoxy as Academia”.
  • José Ossandón (Universidad Diego Portales), discussant.

11:00-11:30 – Coffee break

11:30-13:00 – Panel III: The uses of publicity: the 364 economists’ letter of 1981.

In March 30, 1981, The Times published a letter signed by 364 economists opposing Geoffrey Howe’s budget. The short statement had been originally penned by Robert Neild and Frank Hahn in the coffee room of Cambridge’s Faculty of Economics, but as it was made to travel around Britain’s economics department, it quickly gained in signatories. It classified government action as doctrinaire “monetarism” lacking scientific and evidential credentials. And it foresaw grave economic, social and political consequences if the contractionary policies were pursued. The session brings together historians of the 1970s and 1980s to converse around the object of the protest letter. We invite them to bring other objects from the period that might help us understand the context of the protest, its form, its precedents, and its consequences.

  • Tiago Mata (University of Cambridge), chair and discussant.
  • Aled Davies (University of Oxford), “The City’s popularization of Monetarism.”
  • Catherine Walsh (Goldsmiths), “Narrative of the Treasury.”
  • Duncan Needham (University of Cambridge), “Economics of deception and misconception.”

13:00-14:00 – Lunch

14:00-15:30 – Panel IV: Economic journalism: practices in national contexts

Journalism is in the midst of serious upheaval. Traditional print-based business-models have been shattered by digital media, whilst the advent and spread of social media have changed the relationship between journalists and audiences. Meanwhile, news agencies are producing more and faster news, which affects reporting practices, news consumption, and the scope of the public sphere(s). Despite these global changes, economic journalism remains embedded in national and local contexts. The independence of the journalistic field, the professional realities of journalists, and the economic literacy of audiences fluctuates both locally and nationally. This panel will compare diverse practices of economic journalism, exploring how national narratives, institutional arrangements and professional cultures affect the ways in which the economy is discussed in the public sphere(s).

  • Angel Arrese (University of Navarra), chair and discussant.
  • Carolina Matos (University of Essex), “Journalism cultures in the public sphere: a look at Brazilian economic journalism since the 1990s.”
  • Julien Duval (CNRS), “Transformations of economic journalism in France since the 1980s.”
  • Roei Davidson (University of Haifa), “Business journalism in Israel and USA.”
  • Emre Tarim (Gothenburg Research Institute), “Frames and interpretative templates in Istanbul’s business broadcasting.”

15:30-16:00 – Coffee break

16:00-17:00 – Round-up session 

Workshop discussants

  • Christopher Godden (University of Manchester)
  • Peter Sloman (University of Oxford)

The number of participants is limited. If you are interested in joining the workshop please contact us through the email: hpsecon[at]hermes[dot]cam[dot]ac[lastdot]uk