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A Brief History of the American Economic Association

Bernstein, Michael A.

The 20th‐century American economics profession and its leading professional organization—the American Economic Association (AEA)—were privileged and shaped by the federal government's need to direct resources and to call on experts. Bureaucratic tendencies to classify and count had an impact on the discipline's self‐concept, the articulation of subdisciplines, and the establishment of multiple research agendas. They also powerfully framed the strategies for growth and development formulated and deployed by the AEA itself. A consensus of professional opinion and the standardization of curriculums emerged out of the involvement of economists and the AEA with governmental affairs. At the same time, such public engagement was fraught with risks and contradictions—posing challenges and difficulties with which the AEA and the profession would have to contend for decades to come.

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