How to Make a Super-model: Professional Incentives and the Birth of Contemporary Macroeconomics

Oddný Helgadóttir*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Reinterpreting the rise of contemporary macroeconomics, this article argues that what mattered most in the shift away from postwar Keynesianism was a new form of modeling called Real Business Cycles (RBC) – variations of which still dominate mainstream macroeconomics. But how could this form of modeling, championed by a handful of junior economists, affect a disciplinary coup in the face of strong opposition from Keynesian disciplinary powerbrokers? Content analysis, network mapping and deep reading of 197 articles by 331 authors suggest that RBC had a competitive edge as a tool of individual professional advancement, allowing it to rewire pre-existing networks of expertise in the face of strong opposition. Elaborating on the interdependence between individual professional appeal and the rise of new forms of formalized expertise, this article identifies three facets of RBC that made it a ‘super-model’, enabling its improbable takeover of macroeconomics: the ability to bond together a set of disparate ideas into a simple and workable whole (‘glue’), deflect known criticism (‘rubber’), and incorporate modified assumptions (‘putty’).
Original languageEnglish
JournalReview of International Political Economy
Number of pages30
ISSN0969-2290
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Epub ahead of print. Published online: 3. November 2021

Keywords

  • Economic ideas
  • Economists
  • Models
  • Formalization
  • Keynesianism
  • Professions

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