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Deirdre McCloskey: Liberalism in the 21st Century

Being a student of the Economics and Business Faculty, you will most likely have or have had a course called Economic Methodology. This course makes an introduction to the world of economic philosophy. The name Deirdre McCloskey might tingle some vague or vivid memories about her as an economist. So, let me help you to refresh a bit of your memory.

Deirdre was born in the family of professor at Harvard University and an opera singer. Later in life, she went for undergraduate and graduate degrees in Economics at Harvard herself. She wrote her dissertation on the British iron and steel industry under the supervision of Alexander Gerschenkron. The statement that she went against was that the entrepreneurship and managerial skills declined in the late 19th century, she proved that it was not the case. In her interview for INET, Deirdre mentioned that one of her supervisor’s teachings was to “find an important question, ask it and then answer it”. Easier said than done.

At the age of 26, McCloskey became an assistant professor of economics at the University of Chicago. She stayed there for 12 years, gaining tenure as an associate professor in economics in 1975, and an associate professorship in history in 1979. In the mid-thirties, she finally started to understand economics and its tricks. She started studying Latin and Greek. The diversity of people in class helped her to broaden her views beyond economics.

Overall her career and list of achievements are more than impressive. She wrote 19 books and around 400 scholarly and popular pieces on topics ranging from technical economics and statistical theory to transgender advocacy and the Bourgeois Virtues. Since October 2007 McCloskey received six honorable doctorates obtained in both the US and Europe. She was a teaching professor of Economics, History, English, and Communication at the University of Illinois in Chicago (UIC) from 2002 till 2015. Interestingly enough Deirdre was a visiting professor of philosophy at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam.

McCloskey’s longest-standing interest has been in the big economic question of history: that of divergence and the uniqueness of Britain and Northwest Europe. She published a trilogy of books called Bourgeois Virtues. The French word bourgeois means a sociologically defined social class, especially during contemporary times, referring to people with a certain cultural and financial capital belonging to the middle or upper-middle class. In this trilogy, she takes a look at the development and influence of the middle class. The new valuation of the bourgeoisie, a new dignity, and liberty for ordinary people was a change unique to northwestern Europehow people applied to economic behavior the seven old words of virtueprudence, justice, courage, temperance, faith, hope, and love.

Deirdre McCloskey describes herself as “I’m a literary, quantitative, postmodern, free-market, progressive-Episcopalian, ex-Marxist, Midwestern woman from Boston who was once a man. Not ‘conservative’! I’m a Christian classical liberal.” Her liberal views are apparent in her works on feminist economics, gender crossing, and religious economics.

If you are now interested or intrigued by her for now. Then come and listen to her sharing views during the interview with Room of Discussion on November 12th at 13:00. See you in the E-hall at Roeterseilandcampus.

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