McCloskey, Deirdre N. 1942- (Deirdre Nansen McCloskey, Donald N. McCloskey, Donald Nansen McCloskey)
McCloskey, Deirdre N. 1942- (Deirdre Nansen McCloskey, Donald N. McCloskey, Donald Nansen McCloskey)
Original name, Donald Nansen McCloskey; born September 11, 1942, in Ann Arbor, MI; child of Robert Green (an academician) and Helen (a singer) McCloskey; married Joanne Comi (a nurse), June 19, 1965 (marriage ended); children: Daniel, Margaret. Education: Harvard University, B.A. (magna cum laude), 1964, Ph.D., 1970. Politics: Libertarian. Hobbies and other interests: Latin, Greek, folk music.
Home—Chicago, IL. Office—UH 829 MC 228, University of Illinois at Chicago, 601 S. Morgan, Chicago, IL 60607-7104. E-mail—[email protected]
University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, assistant professor, 1968-73, associate professor of economics, 1973-80, associate professor of history, 1979-80; University of Iowa, Iowa City, professor of history and economics, 1980-99; University of Illinois at Chicago, distinguished professor, liberal arts and sciences, 1999—. Erasmus University of Rotterdam, professor, 1997, and visiting Tinbergen Professor 2002-06; distinguished visiting faculty fellow, University of California at Riverside, 2000. Organizer of conferences, 1970-90; lecturer, 1985-94.
American Economic Association, American Economic History Association, Economic History Society (England).
Guggenheim fellow, 1983; National Science Foundation grants.
UNDER NAME DONALD N. MCCLOSKEY
Economic Maturity and Entrepreneurial Decline: British Iron and Steel, 1870-1913, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1973.
Enterprise and Trade in Victorian Britain: Essays in Historical Economics, Allen & Unwin, 1981.
The Applied Theory of Price, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1982, 2nd edition, 1985.
The Rhetoric of Economics, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 1985.
The Writing of Economics, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1987.
Econometric History, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1987.
If You're So Smart: The Narrative of Economic Expertise, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1990.
(With George K. Hersh, Jr., and others) A Bibliography of Historical Economics to 1980, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1990.
Knowledge and Persuasion in Economics, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1994.
The Vices of Economists, the Virtues of the Bourgeoisie, Amsterdam University Press (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1996, new edition (under name Deirde N. McCloskey), 1997.
Economics and the Historian, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1996.
The Rhetoric of Economics, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 1998.
EDITOR, UNDER NAME DONALD N. MCCLOSKEY
Essays on a Mature Economy: Britain after 1840, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1972.
(With Roderick Floud) The Economic History of Britain since 1700, Volume I: 1700-1860, Volume II: 1860 to the 1970s, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, England), 1981, 2nd edition, 1994.
(With Allan Megill and John S. Nelson) The Rhetoric of the Human Sciences: Language and Argument in Scholarship and Public Affairs, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 1987.
(With Arjo Klamer and Robert M. Solow) The Consequences of Economic Rhetoric, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1988.
Second Thoughts: Myths and Morals of U.S. Economic History, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1993.
Crossing: A Memoir, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1999.
Economical Writing, Waveland Press (Prospect Heights, IL), 2000.
Measurement and Meaning in Economics: The Essential Deirdre McCloskey, edited by Stephen Thomas Ziliak, E. Elgar (Northampton, MA), 2001.
The Secret Sins of Economics, Prickly Paradigm Press (Chicago, IL), 2002.
The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2006.
(With Stephen Ziliak) The Cult of Statistical Significance: How the Standard Error Is Costing Jobs, Justice, and Lives, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 2008.
(With others) The Economic Conversation: A First Text, Palgrave-Macmillan (New York, NY), 2008.
Contributor to professional journals. Editor, Journal of Economic History, 1981-85; associate editor, Journal of Economic Perspectives; contributing editor, Critical Review and Reasoning. Member of editorial boards of several professional journals.
Deirdre N. McCloskey, who formerly wrote as Donald N. McCloskey, is, as Jim Holt noted in the New York Times Book Review, a "maverick" in her field of economics. Classically trained in economics at Harvard, she seemed to break ranks with that training with her 1985 work, The Rhetoric of Economics, which took issue with the supposed objectivity of economics. She argued that the use of sterile mathematical models to explain economics was not doing the job, and that rhetoric and stories may well serve better. Since that opening salvo, McCloskey has gone on to poke and prod at the more conservative economics establishment. As Davis W. Houck noted in Argumentation and Advocacy: "For nearly twenty years, McCloskey has, with varying degrees of success, proclaimed quite loudly to fellow economists: ‘you don't know what you think you know.’ And perhaps more impertinently, ‘here, let me prove it to you.’" Houck went on to comment: "At the center of McCloskey's anti-foundational critique of modem economics is an emphasis on language—how language constructs identities among economists, how it constructs disciplinary knowledges, and how it ultimately, if used with skill, good humor and appropriate table manners, might make us better people."
With If You're So Smart: The Narrative of Economic Expertise, McCloskey argues that there is more of literature and stories in economics than there is science. Reviewing that title in Publishers Weekly, Genevieve Stuttaford praised the "delicious wit and great seriousness" with which the book was written. For Ralph Sandler, writing in the Southern Economic Journal, this was "an engaging and literate continuation of the themes explored in The Rhetoric of Economics." Of McCloskey's 1996 book, Knowledge and Persuasion in Economics, Business History Review critic Jack High noted: "McCloskey is out to change the way economists ply their trade. If [s]he succeeds, economics will become a user-friendly discipline, accessible to the history department, the English department, and the corporate boardroom." In her 1999 work, The Vices of Economists, the Virtues of the Bourgeoisie, McCloskey takes professional economists to task for what she perceives as their three vices, as Roger Frantz noted in the Journal of Socio-Economics: "1) confusing statistical significance with scientific significance or importance, 2) confusing ‘blackboard’ economics with knowledge of the real world, and 3) using the first two as the basis of social engineering."
McCloskey has taught both economics and the humanities at the university level, and has combined these two seemingly disparate subjects in her 2000 work How to Be Human—Though an Economist. McCloskey's approach to "humanizing" a dry science has "allowed her to bridge a gap between economics and literary studies," according to Reason writer Nick Gillespie. When asked by Gillespie why it was so "hard for economists to be human," McCloskey replied that throughout economic history "the central argument … has been that prudence [is] the preeminent virtue." But prudence alone, she added, citing Adam Smith, "is not a complete account of human beings. So if we are going to be complete, we need to recognize other virtues, too." It behooves budding economists to realize that, suggested critic Peter Boethke of the Humane Studies Review. Economic studies "often devolve into academic showmanship rather than a mutual engagement with ideas," Boethke noted. "We value smarts, not necessarily wisdom. Somebody, therefore, has to fill in the missing gap as our moral teacher. In modern economics the wisest teacher of the public morality" is McCloskey. In the critic's view, "a young economist who learns and practices the fifteen rules McCloskey lays out [in How to Be Human] will not only become a good economist, but also practice her economics while being a decent human being." In this book, remarked Times Literary Supplement contributor David Throsby, McCloskey "argues that love alters economic behavior in ways that are understood by anthropologists, psychologists, theologians or poets, but not by economists. She suggests that taking account of love requires economic analysis, ‘but an economic analysis of people, not of blackboard phantoms.’"
Writing in strategy+business, Andrea Gabor noted that economists generally "prefer to examine the world through the lens of elegant mathematical models." However, Gabor asserted, McCloskey "has become one of the most prominent and unorthodox voices in her field by attacking that tendency head-on. She routinely questions the discipline's most fundamental assumptions." With her 2006 work, The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce, she "is raising the stakes with a wholesale challenge to her profession, one that questions long-held interpretations of laissez-faire economics," according to Gabor. The Bourgeois Virtues is the first of a planned quartet of books, "an ambitious survey of the history of capitalism from Plato to social critic Barbara Ehrenreich [that] argues that it is a far more ethical system than either its advocates or its disparagers recognize." McCloskey posits that businesses only succeed over the long term by doing good. "Nobility of character is a core requirement for business success," as Gabor noted. McCloskey presents seven virtues for businesses, cobbled together from philosophy, religion, and the business world. These include love, faith, and hope, which the author denotes as the Christian and feminine virtues; courage and temperance, classified as pagan and masculine; and prudence and justice as the ethical virtues that keep businesses running.
"McCloskey presents some wonderful insights about bourgeois values, but she will put off many readers with her numerous quips and her almost stream-of-consciousness writing style," thought Library Journal reviewer Lawrence R. Maxted. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that McCloskey "argues that bourgeois economic practices and people promote the widest possible range of virtues," but also found this lengthy first volume "a highly idiosyncratic survey with no obvious focus." A similar assessment was expressed by New York Times Book Review critic Jim Holt, who wrote: "The heft, the air and the title of this book all promise a big thesis. But what the devil could that thesis be?" Holt went on to observe: "Sometimes the author appeared to be arguing that capitalism makes us virtuous. Sometimes she seemed to be saying that virtue is the most important ethical idea we have. And sometimes she more or less announced that Love Is Bigger Than Economics." A much more positive assessment of The Bourgeois Virtues was offered by Christian Century writer James Halteman, who termed the work "the most comprehensive attempt yet published to show that Sunday and Monday virtues are compatible and complementary." Halteman further noted that the author's "grasp of history, philosophy, the social sciences and non-Christian religions makes this treatment of the classical virtues rich and deep."
The author was already firmly established as an economist when the then-Donald McCloskey announced in 1995: "I am cross-gendered, and, at age 53, having been a good soldier for over four decades, I am doing something about it. Not to startle you, but I am becoming a woman economist." McCloskey chronicled her transition from man to woman in both How to Be Human and in her 1999 book Crossing: A Memoir. More than 25,000 Americans have changed their gender, the book reveals; in McCloskey's case, the procedure included hair removal and was followed by "a tummy tuck and breast augmentation," Maxine Kumin wrote in a New York Times Book Review piece. "The facial reconstruction: reduction of the eyebrow ridge …, cheek and jaw surgery, an operation to reduce the nose, move the hairline forward, point the jaw, lift the eyebrows. The first voice operation was not successful, nor were subsequent ones." Kumin added that Crossing, beyond describing the arduous medical transformation of transgendering, focuses on "the gradual emotional evolution the writer experienced." Even after the procedure was complete, all was not well in McCloskey's life. "Sadly, his son, daughter and former wife turned away from this new person," noted Kumin. "But Deirdre McCloskey's mother and brother have been bulwarks of support, and her sister is moving toward reconciliation. She has finally stopped calling her ‘Donald.’"
McCloskey told CA that, during the 1980s, she turned to "rhetoric" in economics and history. Her books in the "rhetoric of inquiry" have made her known throughout the social sciences and humanities. The author wrote: "My change of gender in 1996 corresponded with a turn toward ethical reflections. I am now a leader in bringing economics back to what I call ‘the ethics of good old Adam Smith.’"
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
McCloskey, Deirdre, Crossing: A Memoir, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1999.
American Economist, fall, 1993, Robert Whaples, review of Second Thoughts: Myths and Morals of U.S. Economic History.
American Historical Review, June, 1973, review of Essays on a Mature Economy, p. 692; June, 1975, review of Economic Maturity and Entrepreneurial Decline, p. 644.
Argumentation and Advocacy, fall, 2002, Davis W. Houck, "‘It Helps to Be a Don If You're Going to Be a Deirdre’: Revisiting the Rhetoric of Economics."
Booklist, November 15, 1999, review of Crossing, p. 584.
Business Economics, July 1, 2000, Edward Steinberg, review of Economical Writing, p. 76.
Business History, April 1, 1992, S.N. Broadberry, review of A Bibliography of Historical Economics to 1980, p. 141.
Business History Review, summer, 1974, review of Economic Maturity and Entrepreneurial Decline, p. 238; summer, 1994, Warren J. Samuels, review of Second Thoughts; summer, 1996, Jack High, review of Knowledge and Persuasion in Economics; spring, 2007, Charles Tilly, review of The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce.
Challenge, January 1, 1997, "Interview with Deirdre McCloskey," p. 16.
Choice, September 1, 1993, A.R Sanderson, review of Second Thoughts, p. 183; November 1, 1998, R.S. Hewett, review of The Rhetoric of Economics, p. 569; November 1, 2006, J. Halteman, review of The Bourgeois Virtues, p. 532.
Christian Century, March 20, 2007, James Halteman, "Capital Virtues," p. 34.
Harvard Business Review, October 1, 2006, review of The Bourgeois Virtues, p. 34.
Journal of Economic History, September, 1974, review of Economic Maturity and Entrepreneurial Decline, p. 795.
Journal of Economic Literature, December, 1997, review of The Vices of Economists, the Virtues of the Bourgeoisie, p. 2111; March, 1998, review of The Vices of Economists, the Virtues of the Bourgeoisie, p. 228; December, 1998, review of The Rhetoric of Economics, p. 2212; June, 2001, review of How to Be Human—Though an Economist, p. 623; December, 2001, review of How to Be Human—Though an Economist, p. 1226; June 1, 2002, review of Measurement and Meaning in Economics: The Essential Deirdre McCloskey, p. 583.
Journal of Modern History, March, 1974, review of Essays on a Mature Economy, p. 144.
Journal of Socio-Economics, November, 1999, Roger Frantz, review of The Vices of Economists, the Virtues of the Bourgeoisie, p. 777.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 1999, review of Crossing, p. 1477.
Library Journal, September 1, 1999, review of Crossing, p. 218; April 1, 2006, Lawrence R. Maxted, review of The Bourgeois Virtues, p. 108.
National Review, March 18, 1991, Richard Ryan, review of If You're So Smart: The Narrative of Economic Expertise, p. 56.
New York Review of Books, December 21, 2006, "Is Capitalism Good for You?," p. 70.
New York Times Book Review, November 14, 1999, Maxine Kumin, "The Metamorphosis," p. 10; July 30, 2006, "Bobos in Paradise," p. 14.
Publishers Weekly, September 21, 1990, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of If You're So Smart, p. 58; April 27, 1992, review of If You're So Smart, p. 263; October 4, 1999, review of Crossing, p. 54; April 3, 2006, review of The Bourgeois Virtues, p. 57.
Reason, May, 2001, Nick Gillespie, "Economical Humanism," p. 17.
Reference and Research Book News, August, 2001, review of Measurement and Meaning in Economics, p. 76.
Science, May 19, 1989, "The Consequences of Economic Rhetoric," p. 839.
Southern Economic Journal, April 1, 1993, Ralph Sandler, review of If You're So Smart, p. 855; April 1, 1997, Amy Thompson McCandless, review of Economics and the Historian, p. 1131.
Times Higher Education Supplement, March 28, 1997, "Aunt Deirdre Says ‘Economists, Get out of the Sandpit. Now!’," p. 16.
Times Literary Supplement, March 24, 1972, review of Essays on a Mature Economy, p. 321; August 16, 1974, review of Economic Maturity and Entrepreneurial Decline, p. 883; August 7, 1981, review of Enterprise and Trade in Victorian Britain, p. 897; August 1, 1986, review of The Rhetoric of Economics, p. 834; March 22, 2002, David Throsby, "Humans Can Apply," p. 28; October 20, 2006, "Home-made Morality: What We Can Learn from a Virtual Relationship with Deirdre McCloskey," p. 3.
Washington Post Book World, May 17, 1987, review of The Rhetoric of Economics, p. 12.
Deirdre N. McCloskey Web site,http://www.deirdremccloskey.com (July 14, 2007).
Humane Studies Review,http://www.humanestudiesreview.org/ (spring, 2002), Peter Boethke, "Being Human: What They Don't Teach in Graduate School."
strategy+business,http://www.strategy-business.com/ (July 14, 2007), Andrea Gabor, "Deirdre McCloskey's Market Path to Virtue."