Edmund Phelps, recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Economics, is McVickar Professor Emeritus of Political Economy and Director of the Center on Capitalism and Society at Columbia University. Born in 1933, he spent his childhood in Chicago and, from age six, grew up in Hastings-on Hudson, N.Y. He attended public schools, earned his B.A. from Amherst (1955) and got his Ph.D. at Yale (1959). After a stint at RAND (1959-60), he held positions at Yale and its Cowles Foundation (1960-66), a professorship at Penn (1966-71) and finally Columbia (1971- 2021). He became Director of the newborn Center on Capitalism and Society in 2001. He has written books on public debt, inflation, unemployment theory, slumps, rewarding work, indigenous innovation, the good life and dynamism. He also has written texts on economic justice, political economy and schools of macroeconomic thought.
In this book, Phelps tells the story of his role in reshaping economic theory, offering a powerful personal account of a creative and rewarding career. My Journeys in Economic Theory charts two major phases of Phelps’s work, illuminating the breadth of his contributions to the field. First, introducing the expectations of wage setters and cofounding the “equilibrium” rate of unemployment, he built the microeconomic foundations for the employment theory pioneered by Keynes and Hicks. More recently, he conceived a theory of “mass flourishing” superseding Schumpeter and Solow’s conception of the process of innovating—a theory in which individuals’ creativity and society’s dynamism fuel grassroots innovation and generate job satisfaction in the process.
Phelps recounts his vivid experiences in the world of economics—fierce arguments, competition and collaboration, and the good fortune of time spent among some great figures—as well as his relationships with luminaries such as John Rawls, Thomas Nagel, Paul Samuelson, and Paul Volcker. At its core, this book shares the joy of intellectual achievement: the excitement of coming up with a new idea that radically departs from prevailing views and the satisfaction of exercising one’s own ingenuity instead of applying or developing others’ models. Telling the story of a life packed with intellectual adventure, My Journeys in Economic Theory provides a profound vision of a dynamic, modern economy that offers lives rich with creativity and meaning.