Intellectual Rivalry in American Economics: Intergenerational Social Cohesion and the Rise of the Chicago School

Lasse Folke Henriksen, Leonard Seabrooke*, Kevin L. Young

*Corresponding author for this work

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Neoliberal economics has reshaped societies. How did this doctrine ascend? While existing explanations emphasize a variety of factors, one neglected aspect is intellectual rivalry within the US economics profession. Neoliberalism had to attain prestige against the grain of the intelligentsia prior to becoming a force to organize political power. Using qualitative and quantitative evidence, we examine key rivals in US economics from 1960 to 1985: the Chicago School of Economics, neoliberal pioneers and the ‘Charles River Group’ (Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology), the mainstream Keynesian stronghold. We identify socialization mechanisms from historical accounts, which suggest forms of social cohesion between elite professors and their students. We measure social cohesion and network structure from salient relations within and between generations, using a new dataset focused on elite economics professors and their graduate students. What differentiated the Chicago School from Charles River was its fostering of social cohesion and its effective transmission of value orientations across generations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSocio-Economic Review
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)989-1013
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


  • Intellectual networks
  • Neoliberalism
  • Social cohesion
  • Sociology of economics
  • Chicago School of Economics
  • Charles River Group

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