Seeing Like a Macroeconomist: Varieties of Formalisation, Professional Incentives and Academic Ideational Change

Oddný Helgadóttir*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


An emerging literature in political economy points to ‘hinges’ between academia and policy as important sites of analysis and emphasises the role of quantitative models in lending scientific legitimacy to economic ideas. This paper contributes to this literature by asking: what drives change in what is seen as authoritative macroeconomic modelling in academic settings? And how do drivers of ideational change in academia differ from drivers of ideational change in economic policy institutions? In answering these questions the paper emphasises the way in which variations in the formal structures of macroeconomic models interact with academics’ individual professional incentives. Specifically, it argues that ‘portable’ forms of modelling that do not require access to extensive resources are likely to trump ‘fixed’ and resource-intensive forms of modelling. Making this distinction helps elucidate critical junctures in the history of macroeconomic thought. Analytically, the paper relies on a framework that connects the sociology of science, the sociology of professions and the institutionalist tradition in political economy.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNew Political Economy
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)426-440
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Published online: 17 Aug 2021.


  • Economics profession
  • Formalization
  • Paradigm shifts
  • Economic ideas
  • Economic models

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