Philosophy of Economics

Research Projects

Philosophy of economics

My first research interest concerned the nature of economics as a science. I have tried to interpret economics as a human science and to depict economists as real people with real lives trying to make sense of the economic world and, in the last century or so, of the system that the modeling practice has generated. Together with Deirdre McCloskey I have propagated a rhetorical perspective. In my book Speaking of Economics I developed the metaphor of the conversation to make sense of the world of economists.

Borders Matter

by Arjo Klamer



The following is the text of the Socrates lecture that I gave on December 10, 2001 in Utrecht under the title "In Holland Stands a House," a well-known Dutch song. In this English translation I changed the title to "Borders Matter" as the allusion to the song would have been lost.


Borders Matter (Part 2)

by Arjo Klamer

Economic theory and borders

Interestingly, the theorizing of economics still presumes the existence of borders. It lends reason to distinguish open and closed economies, and to treat international economics as a separate field of study. Theoretically, however, one would expect that economic forces are geared to weaken borders and ultimately make them untenable. The argument is that ultimately the quest for profit will take over. Economic agents will seek out transactions that will generate the maximum profit for them. They will not respect borders and will trade with any party that gives them maximum profit. When some agents stop at the borders because they prefer to trade with their compatriots, other agents will exploit the profit opportunities that so arise by trading across the border.


On the conversation and rhetoric of economics

Rhetoric, forthcoming in Handbook of Economics and Ethics, edited by Esther Mirjam Sent and Jan Peil

Arjo's latest book, Speaking of Economics: How to Be in the Conversation (Routledge, 2007) is available and the Speaking of Economics website awaits your comments on selected chapters. Order information

"Economics is a bunch of conversations" -- Arjo Klamer

"Would but that the conversation of economics were characterized by the humor, humility, and humanity with which Arjo Klamer composed this marvelous book. Fortunately, I think the 'bunch of conversations' that make up the discipline of economics will be better — more tolerant of dissenters, more inclusive of outsiders, more relevant to students and everyday economists — when economists accept Klamer's invitation to see how strange their conversational habits really are. And what it takes to change them." David Ruccio, University of Notre Dame

With Deirdre McCloskey and Stephen Ziliak: "Is There Life After Samuelson's Economics? Changing the Textbooks," Real World Economics Review, no. 42, 15 May 2007. The article is in reference to the authors' forthcoming textbook,The Economic Conversation.

Arjo Klamer's Conversations with Economists: a review from Fortune magazine

Het leven is KORT": Een verslag van de voordrachten van Arjo Klamer, Jan Hoet (foto) en Wilbert van Herwijnen op 14 oktober 2004. Universiteit van Tilburg.

"Borders Matter": A lecture and music converse Socrateslezen, 10 December 2001, Utrecht