Wednesday , February 1 2023
Home / Post-Keynesian / Herb Gintis (1940 – 2023)

Herb Gintis (1940 – 2023)

Summary:
[embedded content]An Academic Lecture from Gintis I know of Herb Gintis more of as an Internet personality than through his work, mostly with Samuel Bowles. I also know of him as an important historical figure in one of those periodic purges of the Harvard economics departments. As I understand it, he went to Harvard for a graduate degree towards the end of the 1960s, intending to study mathematics. He was against the Vietnam war and fell in with a radical crowd. Given this interest in worldly matters, he became an economist. Since he was a radical, he began exploring Marx. Somewhere around this time, he met Samuel Bowles. They could not find anybody in the economics department to teach them Marx and, I guess, learned Marx through self study. The Union for Radical Political Economics

Topics:
Robert Vienneau considers the following as important:

This could be interesting, too:

Robert Vienneau writes John Barkley Rosser, Jr. (1948-2023)

Robert Vienneau writes Axel Leijonhufvud, 9 June 1933 – 5 May 2022

Robert Vienneau writes Geoffrey Harcourt (1931-1921)

Robert Vienneau writes Martin Weitzman’s The Share Economy

An Academic Lecture from Gintis

I know of Herb Gintis more of as an Internet personality than through his work, mostly with Samuel Bowles. I also know of him as an important historical figure in one of those periodic purges of the Harvard economics departments.

As I understand it, he went to Harvard for a graduate degree towards the end of the 1960s, intending to study mathematics. He was against the Vietnam war and fell in with a radical crowd. Given this interest in worldly matters, he became an economist. Since he was a radical, he began exploring Marx. Somewhere around this time, he met Samuel Bowles. They could not find anybody in the economics department to teach them Marx and, I guess, learned Marx through self study. The Union for Radical Political Economics was founded in 1968

Harvard had to decide whether to tenure radical economists in the early 1970s. In addition to Bowles and Gintis, Arthur MacEwan and Thomas Weisskopf enter the story here. The faculty tenured Stephen Marglin before they realized that he had changed to be more of a radical. Students protested, and Kenneth Arrow, John Kenneth Galbraith, and Wassily Leontief supported hiring radical economists. But it was not to be.

Meanwhile, students were protesting at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, about the decision to let Michael Best go. The UMass economics department was broken, then, I guess independently of any controversy over radical economics. Bowles, when considering an employment offer, insisted that they other a few others so he would have somebody to talk to about his research. Evenually, UMass decided to tenure Bowles, Gintis, Stephen Resnick, and Richard Wolff. Richard Edwards was the other of the original five, albeit he was not offered tenure. These decisions established the reputation UMass Amherst enjoys to this day. The radical and conventional economists did have an initial period of learning how to get along with one another.

Bowles and Gintis studied schooling in America and developed the theory of contested exchange. This theory looks at principal agent problems, information asymmetries, transaction costs, and so on. Somewhere along the way, the radicals developed a split between Bowles & Gintis and Resnick & Wolff. The latter two were more interested in continential and postmodern philosophy, while Bowles and Gintis turned away from Marx in the 1980s. They became more interested in evolutionary game theory and behavioral economics, for example. They sought a general theory to unify the human sciences.

From about the 1990s on, Gintis was quite active on the Internet. He participated in PKT and PEN-L email discussion lists and the sci.econ Usenet newsgroup. I found out that his prefered exercise regimen was big on weight lifting. He has an extensive set of Amazon reviews. His interventions in these discussion groups could be irritating. He was well-known as a former radical, but he now was a defender of mainstream economics. He thought that undergraduate teaching was outdated and extremely poor, but that advanced researchers were open to new ideas and not driven by pro-capitalist ideology.

References
  • Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis. 1993. The revenge of homo economicus: contested exchange and the revival of political economy. Journal of Economic Perspectives 7(1): 83-102.
  • Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis. 2000. Walrasian economics in retrospect, Quarterly Journal of Economics 115(4): 1411-1439.
  • Herbert Gintis. 2000, 2009. Game Theory Evolving: A Problem-Centered Introduction to Modeling Strategic Interaction, Second edition. Princeton University Press.
  • Tiago Jorge Fernandes Mata. 2005. Dissent in Economics: Making Radical Political Economics and Post Keynesian Economics, 1960-1980.. London School of Economics and Political Science. PhD dissertation.
  • Tiago Mata. 2009. Migrations and boundary work: Harvard, radical economists, and the committee on political discrimination. Science in Context 22(1): 115-143.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *