Matthias Klaes, 2013-14 HOPE Center Fellow


Uncertainty. Ambiguity. Open-endedness.

Those are three conditions that many people dislike and try to avoid.

Matthias Klaes revels in them.

"That's what I learned from Keynes," says Matthias, a 2013-14 fellow of the HOPE Center. "The economy, organizations, life—they are fluid and always in motion. I tell my students to relax with contingencies, to get used to the idea that the companies they want to work for are always changing, always in flux."

It is no wonder, then, that Matthias is an eager explorer of concepts such as "interstanding," a term coined by the religion professor Mark C. Taylor to refer to the negotiation of complex, ever-shifting spaces.

"Spaces between disciplines, between occupations—being an economist and a historian. Interstanding seeks to make sense of the world without closing it down," Matthias says.

It is in that spirit that Matthias has become interested in Ronald Coase, who won the Nobel Prize in economics in 1991.

Coase, Matthias says, was someone who negotiated complex spaces.

"He began by studying 'commerce,' a term that isn't used much anymore and is roughly equivalent to what we would call business administration today. As a student Coase took courses in business law, in accounting, in history, and all those informed his famous theory of the firm."

Matthias's work on Coase is part of a broader project on the history of twentieth-century microeconomic thought, including the history of the concept of transaction costs and the emergence of economic modernism in the work of John Maynard Keynes.

Matthias is visiting Duke not only as a HOPE Center fellow but as part of an International Fellowship awarded by the UK-based Leverhulme Trust. He is working on a project titled "History of Economics Collections in the Digital Age." The project looks into establishing and maintaining digital collections in economics.

A German by birth, Matthias has lived for the past fifteen years in Scotland, where he is currently a professor of history and philosophy of economics, as well as the dean of the School of Business, at the University of Dundee. He also did his PhD at the University of Edinburgh.

During his fellowship he is living in Chapel Hill with his wife Annette and their three daughters, aged 5, 10, and 12.

He and his family have traveled around the state, enjoying Hanging Rock State Park, Jordan Lake, and Wilmington—as well as the proverbial Carolina blue sky. They will return to Dundee this summer.

Paul Dudenhefer