Lectures @ LSE: Economics 0, Reality 1 and More

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 2/15/2010 12:04:00 AM
I have been remiss in not mentioning this before: I must once again voice my amazement at the depth of talent my current institution attracts. A few days ago, I brought you news of the just-launched Global Policy journal here at the LSE featuring a virtual who's who of mostly centre-left academics. In the spirit of academic openness, remember that that fine academic publication is open to all for now. Today, though, I bring more good news that should be suitable to an even wider audience. Whenever American academics cross the pond, the natural place to present their work is the United Kingdom for linguistic reasons. And, when it comes to presenting social science research in particular, it often happens in the capital. Even more specifically, A-list academics inevitably show up at the LSE.

But don't take my word for it. European, American, and (sometimes) Asian academics and policymakers, whatever their political orientation, do make their way here. Indeed, I am often astounded by the sheer number of renowned speakers who come to this University of London institution. Best of all, you too can glimpse what's going here by way of podcasts and, oftentimes, video clips as well. In the past few months, for example, we've hosted the likes of (DfID honcho) Douglas Alexander, Joseph Stiglitz, Jonathon Porritt, Vince Cable, John Bercow, Dambisa Moyo, Amartya Sen, Ed Miliband, Saskia Sassen, Martin Jacques, George Soros, Chris Patten, Will Hutton, (former Spanism PM) Jose Maria Aznar, Steves Dubner and Levitt (of Freakonomics fame), John Kay, (DHS Secretary) Janet Napolitano, Noam Chomsky, (Ecuadorean PM) Rafael Correa , Andrew Gamble, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita (rat choice notable), (World Bank head of Research) Justin Yifu Lin , Robert Skidelsky, Tim Harford, RK Pachauri, Esther Duflo...the list goes on and on.

I'd be lying if I said I've attended even a quarter of these events as those who come a-calling are truly spectacular in quality and quantity--and I have not even bothered mentioning our own experts like Lord Stern and David Held.

Aside from the big name social scientists and politicians, however, I have also enjoyed commentary from those on the outside looking in on how they perceive the social sciences to be like, especially after the credit crisis rolled around. For instance, I attended the talk of Whitbread Book Award winner John Lanchester--Reality 1, Economics 0--who made several cogent points about how once-in-a-jillion lifetime events as predicted by those dabbling with fancy risk management models seem to have convulsed at the same time during the credit crunch. Instead of (rightly) further pillorying economics, though, he made a call for better financial awareness among the civilian population a rallying cry to ensure that future crisis-fuelled boom and busts are kept in check by an informed citizenry. Elsewhere, Jaron Lanier makes the argument that the Internet has not really empowered us but has reduced us to gadgets--mere simulacra of our offline selves made to fit prepackaged corporate conceptions of "online presence." Though I am more optimistic than Lanier, he does make some good points.

Whatever your interests, I am sure that there will be something for you as the speakers touch upon nearly every topic and take nearly every viewpoint imaginable. If you're in London or the UK, all events are free to attend although the more popular ones require a ticket for entry. The main events site is here; a catalogue of current events is also online. Meanwhile, you can check the Twitter feed as well for upcoming events.

It's all fascinating, and I'd be absolutely gobsmacked if there's another institution that puts more effort into making such a wealth of knowledge free of charge to anyone with an Internet connection. It guarantees that I will take a bit of Houghton Street with me when the time comes to move on. Enjoy!