The education process is to some extent an exercise in indoctrination. It prepares students to be part of the status quo, but a liberal arts education should be an antidote against that.

Matías Vernengo

Matías Vernengo first became interested in economics when he was a high school student in Brazil. The economics professor had read a "little book" called The Historical Framework of the Process of Development and Underdevelopment by Osvaldo Sunkel in which the author discussed how the process of development that led to the Industrial Revolution in Britain also created the conditions of underdevelopment in the periphery.

"For example, in order for the textile/cotton industry to rise in England, it had to collapse in India," says Vernengo, a self-described Keynesian economist. "I've always had a bias toward history, and Sunkel wrote the book in that context. To have the U.S. economy, you need to have people elsewhere making products for low wages," he says. "It's the logic of capitalism. That for me is a fascinating sort of notion."

Capitalist development is historic, says the economics professor, and economic discipline does not evolve in a linear fashion. "So the ideas of sometimes neglected authors like Smith, Ricardo, Marx and Kalecki are essential for understanding the evolution of capitalism in the developed world and in the periphery," he says. His research also touches on the interaction of economic theory and policy. "For that reason, I've become interested in economists and policymakers like Marriner Eccles, chairman of the Fed during the Great Depression and WWII, and Raúl Prebisch, the head of the central bank of Argentina during the same period."

Vernengo hopes to help his students think critically. "The education process, not just in economics, is to some extent an exercise in indoctrination. It prepares students to be part of the status quo, but a liberal arts education should be an antidote against that," he says. "I'm particularly interested in providing tools for an alternative view of how the economy works, one that is based on recovering elements of the old classical authors and the progressive elements of Keynesian economics."

Additionally, Bucknell students will benefit from the range of economic views held by his colleagues. The department, he says, is committed to a pluralist view of economics, with considerable input of critical views. Says Vernengo, "It's important for students to learn from all schools of thought."

Posted October 10, 2013

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