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CFP 21st Annual ESHET Conference


21st Annual ESHET Conference

Rationality in Economics

18-20 May 2017 – University of Antwerp, Belgium



The 21st Annual Conference of the European Society for the History of Economic Thought (ESHET) will take place in Antwerp, at the University of Antwerp, 18-20 May 2017. Proposals for papers or sessions on all aspects of the history of economic thought are welcome. An abstract of a maximum of 400 words for a paper and 600 words for a session should be submitted via the conference website:


The deadline for submissions is 15 January 2017.

Note that: a) published papers are not eligible for submission; b) only one conference presentation is allowed per person (but more than one submission may be accepted, if involving co-authors who are also presenting); c) session proposals must conform with a standard format (3 papers, 90 minutes).

Particularly welcome are proposals of papers and sessions that fall into the ESHET 2017 conference theme: “Rationality in Economics”. However, papers may be on any topic relevant to the history of economic thought, and are not restricted to the conference theme.

Rationality in Economics

Rationality is one of the defining concepts of economics. Standard economic theory routinely assumes that people behave rationally. Consumption decisions are taken to be made by utility maximising economic agents, and production decisions by profit maximising firms. Economists have also eagerly applied the rationality assumption to situations outside the traditional realm of economics. The economic analysis of crime and marriage are just two examples.

Throughout the history of economic thought debates have raged about the nature of rational behaviour. A case in point is the debate about rationality in situations of risk and uncertainty, set in motion by Maurice Allais’s experiments and the discovery of the Allais paradox. Game theory has been a fertile ground for the exploration of different puzzles and anomalies concerning rational behaviour. The prisoners’ dilemma, for instance, highlights the tension between individual and collective rationality.

A more radical departure can be seen in the development of new branches of economics, such as behavioural finance and behavioural macroeconomics. Scholars in these fields openly question the assumption that people behave rationally, and adopt behavioural assumptions which are perceived as more realistic. Recent work on ‘irrational exuberance’ (Robert J. Shiller) and ‘predictably irrational’ behaviour (Dan Ariely) illustrates this type of research. Going further back in history, John Maynard Keynes’s use of the phrase ‘animal spirits’ points in the same direction.

Clearly, there is a role for historians of economic thought to illuminate the central but changing place of the concept of rationality in the history of economics. Since the debates on rationality are far from over and continue to influence the way economics and related disciplines evolve today, the topic is of interest to more than just historians of thought. The theme of the 2017 conference therefore confirms ESHET’s belief that the study of the history of economic thought should in no way be disconnected from current issues in economics and beyond, and could in fact help provide historical perspectives on standard views about the subject.

Special attention will be granted to proposals which enrich our views on the role of rationality in the history of economic thought, from the origins up to today. Examples include:

  • Rationality and self-interest
  • Individual and social rationality
  • Rationality and uncertainty
  • Rationality and satisficing
  • Rationality in macroeconomics



ESHET invites young scholars – persons currently enrolled as PhD students, or who have been awarded a PhD no more than two years prior to May 2017 – to submit their work to the Young Scholars Seminar to be held on the occasion of the ESHET Conference.

Only full papers will be taken into consideration for the applications to the Young Scholars Seminar. Candidates should e-mail a paper no longer than 9.000 words to Professors Richard Sturn (richard.sturn@uni-graz.at) and Annalisa Rosselli (annalisa.rosselli@uniroma2.it) by 15 February 2017. Please include documentation of your (and your co-authors) status concerning your PhD, and indicate in the Subject heading of your e-mail: For Young Scholars Seminar. Co-authored papers are accepted if and only if the co-author is a young scholar according to the definition given above.

Up to six submissions will be selected. ESHET will cover travel expenses up to €300, accommodation costs up to €80/night for three nights, and the registration fee. Moreover, the authors will be invited to the gala dinner. The authors of the selected papers will have 20 minutes each to present their paper, which will be discussed by a senior scholar. Papers may be on any topic relevant to the history of economic thought, and are not restricted to the conference theme.

A one-year ESHET membership is offered to all young scholars who submit a paper to the Young Scholars Seminar. Papers that have not been selected will be considered for presentation at other conference sessions, if you specify in your email that you intend to participate in the conference even if you do not succeed in getting the grant.

Authors will be notified about the result of the selection process by 1 April 2017.


Scientific Committee

Erik Buyst, KU Leuven, Belgium

Michel De Vroey, Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium

Guido Erreygers, Universiteit Antwerpen, Belgium

Ivo Maes, National Bank of Belgium

Manuela Mosca, Università del Salento/Università di Bologna, Italy

Bert Mosselmans, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium

Luca Pensieroso, Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium

Hans-Michael Trautwein, Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg, Germany

Antoon Vandevelde, KU Leuven, Belgium


Organizing Committee

Guido Erreygers, Universiteit Antwerpen

Roselinde Kessels, Universiteit Antwerpen

Aline Janssens, Universiteit Antwerpen

Mieke Vermeire, Universiteit Antwerpen


Information and inquiries

Please contact the local organizer, Guido Erreygers, and conference secretary, Mieke Vermeire (eshet2017@uantwerp.be).



Guido Erreygers

Department of Economics, University of Antwerp & Centre for Health Policy, University of Melbourne


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