Without integrating political science or more precisely political economy into the curriculum, our future economists will at best have a tunnel vision of how and for whom the economy should work.
Economics and political science have always been intimately linked in terms of application. The state is responsible for solving economic problems. A stable government is therefore a prerequisite for sustainable economic development. While the state, or the realm of politics, determines economic goals, political ideology determines the economic system that controls the lives of millions of people.
But despite the well-woven agreement, political science and economics are quite opposite in the way they are taught in universities.
While undergraduate economics, at least in my experience, is taught more as a positive science that attempts to explain various economic phenomena with calculated statistics, students barely learn to contextualize their knowledge of economic fundamentals by terms of what is right or wrong. .
Thorstein Veblen, a prominent economist from the institutionalist school, raised a similar question regarding the traditional economists’ fascination with achieving balance, which the economist Adam Smith and his neoclassical successors believed in. Veblen asked if the balance these economists were so concerned about was indeed a good or desired outcome.
Yes. Students learn the different aspects from Smith’s classical economics, Keynesian economics or Friedman’s neoclassical economics. But often they don’t learn the order and the social and political contexts that motivated each of the strands.
This is where an understanding of political science can come in very handy. As a discipline, political science is a bit more prescriptive. It dictates how states should operate, how decisions should be made to govern a community, how rights and responsibilities should be distributed, and how conflicts should be resolved.
And to inject a fruitful understanding of how the economy can and should work, students must not only learn how economies can and should work or how to achieve the most efficient results, but also what principles economic policies should adhere to.
Dr. Ahrar Ahmed, professor emeritus, taught political science at Black Hills State University. He says: “The relationship between economics and politics has always been quite deep. This interconnectedness is demonstrated most blatantly in today’s world. Therefore, students may be advised to have the opportunity to at least be exposed to both to have a fuller and deeper understanding of either.”
In fact, without integrating political science or more specifically political economy into the curriculum, our future economists will at best have a tunnel vision of what economics should look like.
Unfortunately, for three years, the Political Science course is no longer offered in the Department of Economics at the University of Dhaka, one of the best economics schools in the country. The University of Dhaka is not the only one on the list, although given the reputation of the department, the move is quite significant.
Interestingly, many other universities – public and private, including Chattogram University and University of Brac – have been providing the course for years.
That being said, in many universities, these are optional courses, only enrolled by students who aspire to pursue multispectral studies in the future or because of the nature of human resources that universities intend to foster.
As an economics student at the University of Dhaka, I can say that economics students miss the opportunity to learn more about the state and democracy, which apparently should have been an integral part of what we let’s study.
This is why a large part of students and ordinary people perceive democracy as simple majoritarianism. It is because of this fallacy that some groups believe that democracy grants them the right to dictate the way of life of others.
Whereas at the point where the nation where we see men standing with signs dictating the dress code for women, or in the national scenario, democracy has been balanced against development, or even religion, the nation has an urgent need for academic political knowledge.
The Department of Economics at the University of Dhaka produces more than 150 economics graduates every year who learn nothing about politics (like in political science, I believe they learn their share of politics in residencies) and democracy in their program.
Unfortunately, most of these students will likely go on to hold important positions in society, without any full academic understanding of the great science of political economy. And it remains to be seen how politically and socially informed their decisions as economists or policy makers will be.
Parthib Mahmud. Illustration: TBS
Parthib Mahmud. Illustration: TBS