January 10, Prof. Elizabeth Popp Berman (SUNY Albany) at MMG: Politics By Other Means: How Experts Channeled Interests in U.S. Antitrust Policy

Please join us for our first meeting this quarter, which we are pleased to hold in collaboration with the Politics, History, and Society Workshop, on coming Tuesday, 10/4, in Social Science Research Building classroom 401, at 5pm – 6:30pm.

We are excited to host for this session Elizabeth Popp Berman, associate professor of sociology at University of Albany, SUNY. Prof. Berman’s work is located at the intersection of economic sociology, the sociology of knowledge, and science & technology studies. Most of her work focuses on recent U.S. history (1960s to 1980s) and emphasizes the role of public policy. Her main current project is a book, Thinking Like an Economist: How Economics Became the Language of U.S. Public Policy, under contract with Princeton University Press, and the paper she is presenting is a part of this work.

Elizabeth Popp Berman
Associate Professor, Sociology, The University of Albany SUNY

Politics By Other Means: How Experts Channeled Interests in U.S. Antitrust Policy

Discussant: B. Robert Owens
PhD Candidate, Sociology, The University of Chicago

Abstract: Between 1967 and 1982, U.S. antitrust policy shifted dramatically from a high-enforcement position to a laissez-faire one, with the support of conservative groups and big business. In a related but distinct development, economics replaced law as the dominant form of expertise. This story can be told as one in which “interests win” or “experts win”, but a better explanation starts by thinking of policy and academia as linked fields with relative autonomy. In the 1970s, organized interests helped institutionalize the role of economics in antitrust policy, which made allocative efficiency the sole legitimate policy goal. In the academic field, the same groups helped the laissez-faire Chicago School displace more interventionist structuralist economists. But in academia, the fractal dynamics of the social sciences quickly generated a response: game theory, which again prescribed more antitrust enforcement and traveled rapidly back to the policy domain. The relative autonomy of academia means that the politics of policy experts will evolve with their academic discipline. But concepts core to a discipline’s thinking—like efficiency, in the case of economics—may have more durable, if less predictable, effects on political possibilities.

*** For a fruitful discussion, participants are requested to engage with the paper in advance. Copies of the paper are circulated on the workshop mailing-list, and can be asked from the coordinators.***

Questions and accessibility concerns can be addressed to yanivr at uchicago dot edu

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1 Response to January 10, Prof. Elizabeth Popp Berman (SUNY Albany) at MMG: Politics By Other Means: How Experts Channeled Interests in U.S. Antitrust Policy

  1. yanivr says:

    You can see a blog post related to this paper – more about the policy implications – here: https://orgtheory.wordpress.com/2017/01/09/the-antitrust-equilibrium-and-three-pathways-to-policy-change/

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