What happened when neoclassical economics gatecrashed the campus in Whitlam’s Australia?
With the final countdown to the Federal election underway, Hindsight goes to the heart of a rancorous academic dispute in the 1970s and ’80s that involved some of our most high profile political contenders in their idealistic youth. Tony Abbott, Anthony Albanese and Malcolm Turnbull all had a part to play in the Political Economy dispute at Sydney University.
The seeds for the dispute were sown in the late 1960s when two new economics professors, with the support of the Vice Chancellor, set about overhauling the economics curriculum. Their declared aim was to modernise the faculty and to provide a more rigorous undergraduate training in economics. In practice this meant more micro and macroeconomic theory, more maths and statistics, and less of the wide-ranging, pluralist, descriptive economics that had characterised the faculty’s offerings before.
With its emphasis on individualism, choice, markets and efficiency, and its neglect of institutions, economic history and collective interests, the new curriculum was anathema to many students and staff. By the early 1970s a forceful movement had developed in opposition. For more than a decade, the battle raged between those fighting to develop, nurture and defend the teaching of alternative economics, and the conservative forces on campus - which included senior academic staff in the Faculty of Economics, the University administration and right-wing student politicians.
Radical Economics is the story of what happened when neoclassical economics gatecrashed the campus in Whitlam’s Australia. It explores how alternative economic ideas have fared in the decades since. Above all, it reveals the ideological crucible of the 1970s and ’80s in which the current generation of politicians and policy-makers cut their teeth.
In the wake of the GFC and in the lead up to a Federal election in which economic management is unequivocally the bottom line, Radical Economics is essential listening.
As well as the guests listed below, the program features rare archival recordings of Tony Abbott, comments from Malcolm Turnbull, and archival material featuring Glenn Stevens and Milton Friedman.
The producer would like to thank John Hewson, Stuart Macintyre, Geoff Harcourt, Robin Stonecash, John Hawkins, Greg Lindsay and Stan Correy for their assistance and advice.
Anthony Albanese MP, Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Federal Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
Dr Steve Keen, Former Professor of Economics and Finance, University of Western Sydney
Dr Clive Hamilton, Professor of Public Ethics, Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, Charles Sturt University and the University of Melbourne
Dr Frank Stilwell, Emeritus Professor of Political Economy, University of Sydney
Dr Henry Ergas, Senior Economic Adviser - Deloitte Access Economics, Professor of Infrastructure Economics - University of Wollongong, Economics and politics columnist - The Australian
Dr Marian Baird, Professor of Employment Relations, University of Sydney
Jeffrey Phillips SC, Former Vice President of the Students’ Representative Council, University of Sydney
Dr Tim Thornton, Lecturer In International Relations, Swinburne University
Title: Political Economy Now! The struggle for alternative economics at the University of Sydney
Author: Gavan Butler, Evan Jones and Frank Stilwell
Publisher: Darlington Press 2009
Title: The possibility of a pluralist economics curriculum in Australian universities: historical forces and contemporary strategies
Author: Tim Thornton
Publisher: Ph.D Thesis - School of Economics La Trobe University 2013
Title: Making and Breaking Universities: Memoirs of Academic Life in Australia and Britain 1936-2004
Author: Bruce Williams
Publisher: Macleay Press 2005
Title: Educating for Business, Public Service and the Social Sciences: A History of the Faculty of Economics at the University of Sydney 1920-1999
Author: Peter Groenewegen
Publisher: Sydney University Press 2009
Title: Debunking Economics: The Naked Emperor Dethroned?
Author: Steve Keen
Publisher: Zed Books 2011
Title: The Mystic Economist
Author: Clive Hamilton
Publisher: Willow Park Press 1994
Title: Political Animal: The Making of Tony Abbott
Author: David Marr
Publisher: Black Inc 2012
Description: Quarterly Essay 47
Author: Tony Abbott
Publisher: Melbourne University Press 2009
Department of Political Economy, University of Sydney (http://sydney.edu.au/arts/political_economy/)
Tony Abbott on ‘Campus Wide’ in 1979 - TUNE FM (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quFA3CrcELI)
Tony Abbott on ABC TV’s ‘Nationwide’ in 1979 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbRpxd3_EH0)
Shadow boxing: Abbott’s battle against ‘Marxists’ at the University of Sydney (http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/hindsight/shadow-boxing-abbott-battle-against-marxists-at-sydney-uni/4935686)