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Romain Plassard started studying economics as an undergraduate when the economic crisis that began in late 2007 started to unfold.
“At that time, some economists denounced the inability of mainstream macroeconomics to explain the large market failures that were going on," he says. "The economic crisis was about to reveal a theoretical crisis!”
That realization progressively led Romain, a 2015–16 fellow of the HOPE Center, to his current research project: a historical investigation of the so-called microfoundations of macroeconomics, or the methodological requirement that requires deducing economic aggregates such as unemployment and fluctuations from the economic behavior of individuals.
As Romain explains, “Recent historical studies show that there are different ways to think about the relation between economic behaviors and aggregates. Microfoundations in mainstream economics characterize only one way among others.”
Romain is studying in particular the contribution of Robert Clower to the microfoundations of Keynesian macroeconomics. Clower, who was a professor at Northwestern University and UCLA, is well known for of his key role in the transition from IS/LM macroeconomics to fixed-price theories and for his solution to model money economies.
Romain aims to provide a fresh perspective on Clower's theoretical proposals. “Despite Clower’s influence on the course of modern macroeconomics, his contributions remain shrouded with mystery. The kind of theory and the aims contemplated are subject to speculation! The goal of my dissertation is to reveal how he developed his ideas and what were his projects.”
In pursuing his project, Romain is making an extensive use of the archives left by Clower at Duke University; the archives are housed in David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. "Clower was a complicated author," Romain explains, "and it is only through archival materials that I can capture the tortuous path of his thought.”
Romain first made contact with Clower's archives in the summer 2013, when the HOPE Center fellow visited Duke University for the first time.
Romain's project has so far resulted in four working papers, one of which received an award from the European Society for the History of Economic Thought. During his fellowship at the HOPE Center, Romain, a PhD student at the University of Lille, will be working on these papers in order to complete his dissertation.