HVGP at the Festival for New Economic Thinking in Scotland – Interview with Dr. Peter W. Heller

Last week our shareholder Dr. Peter Heller took part in the Festival for New Economic Thinking and the INET conference in Edinburgh, Scotland. He represented the HVGP and held a workshop on our Trialog series „Deutscher Sonderweg“ on economic pluralism. We asked him for some of his impressions of the events.


What was the objective of the two conferences and who was there?

The two conferences were very different in character.

The Festival for New Economic Thinking was in my view unique. The event brought together primarily students and young scholars for an exchange on pluralism in economics. German universities active in this topic were also represented, for instance the University of Witten/Herdecke and Leuphana University.

The following INET conference was in turn a high-profile conference, attended by five Nobel Prize winners. All prominent German Keynesian economists were also there. Under the heading “Reawakening – From the Origins of Economic Ideas to the Challenges of Our Time”, various topics within the field of international economics were discussed, e.g. the secular stagnation, the growth of the dual economy and the future of the Eurozone. It was about an exchange of views between economists on the highest scientific level.


How did you perceive the international debate on pluralism in economic theory and policy at the conference?

The Anglo-Saxon discussion of economics was rather dominant at the conference, which resembled the format of TED Talks. The INET conference was largely influenced by US-American topics and style. The European debate remained a side topic. However, there was a critical mass of German and Italian speakers on the podiums, e.g. Till van Treeck from the University of Duisburg-Essen and Gustav Horn of the Macroeconomic Policy Institute (IMK) pertaining to the Hans-Böckler-Foundation. Overall, the scientific discussion of the topics was predominant. The discussions rarely touched the area of applied economic politics.

With regards to the pluralism of perspectives, it was striking to see that there is a movement, which INET clearly represents: a modern Keynesianism, which in Germany is only a minority position. I did not have the impression, however, that other positions, which would be seen within the core area of pluralism, were given much room in the event. In fact, I assume that neo-Marxist positions would be discussed with more openess at other conferences in continental Europe, while in the Anglo-Saxon context, these positions are almost taboo.

On the one hand, it would have been nice to see a real discussion between Anglo-Saxon and Continental European economists, which did hardly happen as such on the first conference day. On the other hand, it was a very exciting setting that will most likely, due to the many German participants, have an impact on the respective scene in Germany.


What would you like to see happening in the development of economic sciences in Germany?

I met many German university teachers, who were very impressed by the idea of the festival. It would be nice to have a similar festival in Germany, to give all these groups that came from here to Scotland a platform in Germany, where students could find information and orientation about the diverse perspectives and prospects in economic courses at universities. I found the idea of a market place inspiring. As far as I know, it does not exist in Germany. However, the surprisingly good presence of these various German participants show that things are happening in the field of economic pluralism, e.g. the Netzwerk Plurale Ökonomik, Exploring Economics or the mentioned universities. There is already a critical mass of actors – but they do not have an institutional base to present themselves in the way offered by the festival in Edinburgh.