[Marxism] The Making of a Radical Economist

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Dec 29 07:03:13 MST 2013

January 2010
By Howard J. Sherman

Professor Emeritus in Economics at University of California, Riverside
And Visiting Scholar in Political Science, University of California, Los 

This article answers two questions. First, how do radical economists 
develop? Second, how do radical departments develop? In order to answer 
these two questions, I use my own experience in becoming a radical 
economist and my own experience in developing a radical department. For 
biographies – and some autobiographies – of many radical economists, see 
the excellent collection on “dissenting economists” by Sawyer and 
Arestis, 1982. Their biographies show that the development of radical 
economists is affected by their political-economic and personal 
environment, but also by the intellectual environment provided by past 
economic ideas and by their teachers.

My father went bankrupt in the Great Depression. I heard a great deal 
about this fact and the horrors of the depression as I grew up. So I 
resolved to understand why depressions occur and how to get rid of them 
– and about half my research has been on this subject (see, e.g. 
Sherman, 1991, 2003). But being a radical is more than having a concern 
about such issues as depressions. When I studied economics, I found that 
neoclassical economists believed that the system worked well; it was 
merely subject to external shocks. Since the Great Depression revealed 
dramatically the instability of the system, since recessions keep 
occurring, and since all of them have many similar sequences of cause 
and effect, I rejected the neoclassical paradigm of a perfectly 
functioning system as an apologetic argument to protect vested interests 
in the system. My own research has therefore concentrated on the 
internal processes of the business.


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