Professor of Economics
"I am interested in methodological debates in economics and alternatives to neoclassical economics, the dominant paradigm in American economics. In my classes I try to illustrate how thinking about economics in different ways can lead to different conclusions about how to respond to macroeconomic and environmental challenges and how to think about political-economic topics like social inequality. I try to teach students how our thinking is often constrained in ways we are unaware of by paradigms, that is, by the theoretical spectacles we use to view the world.
My research deals with the same themes. In my book Reintroducing Macroeconomics: A Critical Approach (M.E. Sharpe, 2007), for example, I critique standard neoclassical economic textbooks from a "heterodox economics" perspective. The critique challenges neoclassical texts from a common ground shared by Post Keynesian economics, institutionalist economics, feminist economics, ecological economics, radical economics, and Marxist economics. I am especially interested in methodological debates within environmental economics. My book, Too Cheap to Meter: An Economical and Philosophical Analysis of the Nuclear Dream (State University Press of NY 1997), addressed some related issues with respect to the economics of nuclear energy.
I am currently researching the Chinese economy and contemporary Chinese political-economic theory. I am especially interested in studying the nature of debate among Chinese economists over how to think about economic issues and design economic policy. I was in Beijing, Shanghai, and Hangzhou last summer (2011) researching the changing nature of economics education in Chinese universities."
Years at Knox: 1984 to present
Ph.D., Economics, 1986, University of Massachusetts.
M.P.A., Public Affairs, 1976, Princeton University.
B.A., American Studies, 1969, Amherst College.
Macroeconomics, environmental economics Marxist economics, the Chinese economy and Chinese political-economic thought.
Selected Professional Accomplishments
Review of China and Capitalism: A History of Business Enterprise in Modern China, by David Faure, in Rethinking Marxism 21.1 (2009).
"Some Costs of American Corporate Capitalism: A Psychological Exploration of Value and Goal Conflict." Co-authored with T. Kasser, S. Kanner, A.D., and R.M. Ryan. Psychological Inquiry 18.1 (2007): 1-22.
"Psychology and American Corporate Capitalism: Further Reflections and Future Directions." Co-authored with T. Kasser, S. Kanner, A.D., and R.M. Ryan. Psychological Inquiry 18.1 (2007): 60-71.
Reintroducing Macroeconomics: A Critical Approach, M.E. Sharpe, 2007.
"Common Ground Critiques of Neoclassical Principles Texts." Post Autistic Economics Review 18, 2003.
"Heterodox Critiques of Supply in Micro Principles Texts." Review of Radical Political Economics 33 (2001): 343-350.
"Telling Other Stories: Heterodox Critiques of Micro Principles Texts." Working paper posted on the website of The Global Development and Environment Institute (GDAE), 2000.
"Heterodox Hyper-texts: Using the Internet to Knit Together Heterodox Economics." With Geoff Schneider. ICAPE (International Confederation of Associations for Pluralism in Economics) Conference on the Future of Heterodox Economics, 2003.
"Critiques and Alternatives to Mainstream Macro Principles Texts." Allied Social Science Meetings, Union of Radical Political Economists panel, 2002.
"Critiquing Neoclassical Micro Principles Texts: The Introductory Chapters." Eastern Economic Association Meetings, 2001.
Campus & Community Involvement
Consultant and Director, Micro and Macro Critique workshops for the Global Development and Environment Institute.
Past member, Steering Committee of the Union of Radical Political Economists (URPE).
Visiting Scholar and Director, Micro Critique Workshop, Department of Economics, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
What Students Say
"Professor Cohn stresses the importance of understanding alternative ways of thinking about economics. The questions that he poses to his students are ones that he himself has spent a great amount of time grappling with, and any student willing to engage in his paradigmatic approach to economics will find themselves finishing the term looking at many aspects of their lives and education differently. Engaging, wonderfully accessible, and incredibly thoughtful, Professor Cohn represents the kind of egalitarian-spirited faculty endemic to Knox who will make your journey through the liberal arts infinitely enriching."
-Max Potthoff, Environmental Studies Major
"Professor Cohn strengthens independent thinking by providing us with multiple perspectives, yet allowing us the freedom to pursue the paradigm of our choice. It's not just an analysis of various economic perspectives; instead Professor Cohn offers a deep understanding of the interconnectedness between economics and society. When you first enter the class, he challenges us with dense and high-level readings, which by the end of the term have made you a better student, a more expert learner, and a wiser human being."
-Bo Ram Lee, Economics Major and International Relations Minor