Migrations and Boundary Work

migrations-boundaryMigrations and Boundary Work: Harvard, Radical Economists, and the Committee on Political Discrimination in Science in Context, 2009, 22(1): 115-143.

In the late 1960s, in the midst of campus unrest, a group of young economists calling themselves “radicals” challenged the boundar ies of economics. In the radicals’ cultural cartography, economic science and politics were represented as overlapping. These claims were scandalous because they were voiced from Harvard University, drawing on its author ity. With radicals’ claims the subject of increasing media attention, the economics mainstream sought to re-assert the longstanding cultural map of economic science, where objectivity and advocacy were distinguishable. The resolution of the contest of credibility came with a string of cases of dismissals and denial of tenure for radicals. The Amer ican Economic Association’s investigations of these cases, imposing the conventional cultural map, concluded that personnel decisions had not been politically motivated. Radicals were forced to migrate from the elite institutions from which they had emerged to less prestigious ones. “Place” became a marker of their
marginalization within the profession.

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