Students mad that econ profs promote 'capitalist ideologies'

Tufts University students recently complained that the Economics Department focuses too much on “capitalist ideologies” while neglecting to sufficiently demonize President Trump.

In an op-ed for The Tufts Observer titled “Moving Beyond Capitalism," Gabriela Bonfiglio and Kyle Lui assert that there is little intellectual diversity within the department, which they accuse of using lecture-style classes to “subtly” indoctrinate their students in “capitalist ideologies.”

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The writers interviewed department chair Daniel Richards, who expressed the view that economics is a study of “theories of social interaction” and the markets in which such interactions occur, naming Obamacare as one policy that most professors in his department “would understand the logic behind.”

In contrast to what they call the department’s “socially liberal intent," Bonfiglio and Lui say that the students they interviewed described a very different approach.

Alex Kowalick Allen, for instance, reported that her introductory economics course emphasized “profit, profit, profit,” complaining that “We got so disconnected from the social side of it—that our economic system is supposed to benefit society.”

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After relating an incident in which a professor allegedly made a sexist reference to women’s handbags while discussing the concept of luxury goods, the authors contend that “examples used (or avoided) by professors are some of many devices we see as adding up to an inherent and tangible political stance within the Economics department.”

Dismissing Richards’ explanation that there have not yet been any major economic policy initiatives by the Trump administration that professors could discuss with their students, Bonfiglio and Lui issue a demand for “a deepening of intellectual diversity within the Tufts Economics department, so that its lessons can better prepare students to navigate and confront this turbulent time.”

The op-ed even criticizes the lecture-style class format that is frequently used by economics professors, claiming that the style “acts as a device through which capitalist ideologies are subtly made part of not only the course content, but also the way in which that content is taught.”

Nor are their objections limited to the classroom. They also view Braker Hall, the building that houses the Economics Department, as a “space of concentrated power on campus," saying its mere existence “lends legitimacy and power” to the capitalist system.

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Eventually, the op-ed hones in on the main source of its authors’ frustration: neoclassical economics.

“Theories like these regard individuals as able to make deliberate, calculated choices to serve their own interests, instead of seeing happiness as communal,” they elaborate. “In effect, teaching only this economic framework theorizes the way things ought to be and instills it as business as usual, ingraining a sense of ethics into the world by only seeing people as self-serving individuals separate from a larger community.”

In America, they angrily declare, “free market capitalism has created industries that directly [profit] off and [benefit] from the tearing apart of livelihoods and families of color through its legacy of racism.”

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As a contrasting example, they cite the Economics Department at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, which employs “professors who focus on feminism and queerness in their economic research, teaching topics such as the economic and social benefits of legally recognizing queer marriages and the impact of fertility decisions and household work on the economy.”

In addition, they point out that the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts is working to devise a new approach to understanding economics that focuses on “socially and environmentally just and sustainable development,” but say that students are not made aware of such resources through their economics courses.

Campus Reform reached out to Richards for a comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Gbehrakis98