“Anti-history”, Economics and the Global Financial Crisis

By John Leighton Davies.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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As a result of the global financial revolution of the 1980s, the academic disciplines of economis and finance, within Anglo-American societies, came to be dominated by neoclassical-neoliberal schools of thought-a central premise of which is the notion of the inherent eficiency and stability of financial markets. Furthermore, as far as university curricula are concerned, quantitative methodologies and densely mathematical modelling lay at their core. From the perspective of this paper, the hugely problematic aspect of this new orthodoxy has been its ahistorical thrust, since within this exclusively abstract world there is no past. Indeed, the economic historian, J. Bradford Delon, goes so far as to characterise the profession of economist as the “anti-history boys:. This charge that economists not merely ignore, but actively discourage, history is also applicable to the academy. The credibility of neoliberalism has been undermined, of course, by the outbreak of the global financial crisis and the spectacular failure of the financial system. Unquestionably, an anti-historical bias in the economics and finance communities has played some role in both the development of the crisis and the failure, this far, to successfully resolve it. The remainder of this paper is devoted therefore to illustrating the relevance of history to today’s events, by, among other things, engaging in a critical analysis of the historical evolution of our finance-based global economy and undertaking an examination of previous episodes of financial excess and economic imbalance. Finally, a reconstruction of university, and school, curricula is suggested which reconnect both economics and finance with history.

Keywords: Anti-history, Economics, Global Financial Crisis, University Curriculum

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 8, Issue 11, pp.301-312. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 621.450KB).

Dr. John Leighton Davies

Senior Lecturer, College of Education, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Born and raised in Wales, I obtained an MA in History from London University and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin. I am currently senior lecturer in the College of Education at the University of Canterbury.

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