Dr. Ryan Walter - University of Queensland

The proper role for economics in society is deeply contested today, with rival programs competing to shape the economist's intellectual formation and political sensibility. This paper seeks to shed historical light on this contest by examining the conditions in which economists first emerged as a distinct class of intellectual claiming to possess specialised intellectual techniques that endowed them with unique insight into society. The case study developed here is the British political economy of Adam Smith, Thomas Robert Malthus, and David Ricardo. The provisional findings to be reported suggest that internal contest over the economist's office was foundational, in relation to both their reasoning apparatus and political ethos. The hypothesis to be tested in future work is that today's contest over economics is symptomatic of the failure of economics to stabilise the office of the economist.

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