U.S. Economics and the Quest for Scientific Authority (1932–1957)
This thesis studies the way in which economists have sought to establish the scientific authority of their discipline during the period before and after World War II in the United States. The research shows how the quest for scientific authority by economists gave rise to new concepts and notions, instruments of control, and calculation methods. Such developments contributed material and symbolic advantages to the discipline in the academic world and the broader academic sphere. By establishing itself as a type of knowledge which is at once abstract, technical and empirical, economics consolidated as a discipline capable of producing universal knowledge, of articulating the academic world and the practical sphere, and of establishing its qualifications as an applied domain for policy-making. The analysis focuses on three of the institutions at the pinnacle of the discipline in the American academic world: the Cowles Commission, the Economics department of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Economics department of the University of Chicago. By studying the standardization of the PhD program in economics, this research also studies the process of reaching a consensus within the discipline as related to the quest for the special status of 'science'. Rooted in the social history of science, this study contributes to the analysis of standards which influence today’s research, teaching, and professional activity of economists.