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Making Things Technical: Samuelson at MIT


  • Harro Maas


This paper examines how Samuelson defined his own role as an economist as a technical expert, who walked what he called ‘the middle of the road’ to – seemingly – stay out of the realm of politics. As point of entry I discuss the highly tempting offers made by Theodore M. Schultz in the 1940s to come over to Chicago, which Schultz persistently repeated over a period of three years and despite strong Chicago faculty resistance. A contrast between Schultz’s own experiences as an economic expert at Iowa State, Samuelson’s work as an external consultant for the National Resources Planning Board during the Second World War and the firm support of the MIT administration for Samuelson’s research, serve to pinpoint the meaning of being technical for Samuelson, and the relation of the technical economic expert to the realm of politics.

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  • Harro Maas, 2014. "Making Things Technical: Samuelson at MIT," Center for the History of Political Economy Working Paper Series 2014-1, Center for the History of Political Economy.
  • Handle: RePEc:hec:heccee:2014-1

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Cristiano Antonelli & Francesco Quatraro, 2014. "The effects of biased technological changes on total factor productivity: a rejoinder and new empirical evidence," The Journal of Technology Transfer, Springer, vol. 39(2), pages 281-299, April.
    2. Mauro Boianovsky, 2003. "The IS-LM Model and the Liquidity Trap Concept: from Hicks to Krugman," Anais do XXXI Encontro Nacional de Economia [Proceedings of the 31th Brazilian Economics Meeting] a13, ANPEC - Associação Nacional dos Centros de Pósgraduação em Economia [Brazilian Association of Graduate Programs in Economics].
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    Cited by:

    1. Roger E. Backhouse, 2015. "Revisiting Samuelson's Foundations of Economic Analysis," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 53(2), pages 326-350, June.

    More about this item


    technical expertise; economic modeling; ‘middle of the road’ economists; National Resources Planning Board; MIT; University of Chicago;

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