Deirdre McCloskey

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Deirdre McCloskey
Deirdre McCloskey (15579711609).jpg
McCloskey in 2014
Born Donald Nansen McCloskey
(1942-09-11) September 11, 1942 (age 79)
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Fields Economic history
Alma mater Harvard University
Thesis Economic Maturity and Entrepreneurial Decline: British Iron and Steel, 1870–1913 (1970)
Doctoral advisor Alexander Gerschenkron
Known for Economic history of Britain

Deirdre N. McCloskey (born Donald McCloskey, September 11, 1942 in Ann Arbor, Michigan)[1] is an American professor who is a Distinguished Professor of Economics, History, English, and Communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). He is also adjunct professor of Philosophy and Classics there, and for five years was a visiting Professor of philosophy at Erasmus University, Rotterdam. Since October 2007 he has received six honorary doctorates.[2] In 2013, he received the Julian L. Simon Memorial Award from the Competitive Enterprise Institute for his work examining factors in history that led to advancement in human achievement and prosperity.[3] His main research interests include the origins of the modern world, the misuse of statistical significance in economics and other sciences, and the study of capitalism, among many others.


McCloskey earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees in Economics at Harvard University. Her dissertation, supervised by Alexander Gerschenkron,[4] on British iron and steel won in 1973 the David A. Wells Prize.[5]

In 1968, McCloskey became an assistant professor of economics at the University of Chicago, where she stayed for 12 years, gaining tenure as an associate professor in economics in 1975, and an associate professorship in history in 1979. Her work at Chicago is marked by her contribution to the cliometric revolution in economic history, and teaching generations of leading economists Chicago Price Theory, a course which culminated in her book The Applied Theory of Price.[6] In 1979, at the suggestion of Wayne Booth in English at Chicago, she turned to the study of rhetoric in economics. Later at the University of Iowa, McCloskey, the John Murray Professor of Economics and of History (1980–99), published The Rhetoric of Economics (1985) and co-founded with John S. Nelson, Allan Megill, and others an institution and graduate program, the Project on Rhetoric of Inquiry.[7] McCloskey has authored 16 books and nearly 400 articles in her many fields.[8]

Her major contributions have been to the economic history of Britain (19th-century trade, modern history, and medieval agriculture), the quantification of historical inquiry (cliometrics), the rhetoric of economics, the rhetoric of the human sciences, economic methodology, virtue ethics, feminist economics, heterodox economics, the role of mathematics in economic analysis, and the use (and misuse) of significance testing in economics, and recently in her trilogy The Bourgeois Era, the origins of the Industrial Revolution.[9]

Bourgeois Era

Her book The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce[10] was the first of a planned series of books about the world since the Industrial Revolution -- the Bourgeois Era -- and was published in 2006. McCloskey argued that the bourgeoisie, contrary to its self-advertised faith in prudence only, believes in all Seven virtues.

The second, Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can't Explain the Modern World was published in 2010, and argued that the unprecedented increase in human welfare of the 19th and 20th centuries, from three dollars per capita per day to over 100 dollars per day, issued not from capitalist accumulation but from innovation, and that the burst of innovation was a consequence of the new dignity accorded to the bourgeoisie.

The third, Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World appeared in 2016.[9] McCloskey expanded her argument, coining the term "Great Enrichment" to describe the unprecedented gains in human welfare of the 19th and 20th centuries. She reiterated her argument that the enrichment came from innovation and not from accumulation as argued by many from the classical economists and Karl Marx to Thomas Piketty.

Personal life

McCloskey is the eldest child of Robert McCloskey, a professor of government at Harvard University, and the former Helen Stueland, a poet.

Married for thirty years and the parent of two children, she transitioned from male to female in 1995, at the age of 53, writing about her experience in a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, Crossing: A Memoir (1999, University of Chicago Press).[11] It is an account of her growing recognition of her female identity, and her transition—both surgical and social—into a woman (including her reluctant divorce from her wife). The book describes her new life, following sex-reassignment surgery, continuing her career as a female academic economist.

McCloskey advocates on behalf of the rights of persons and organizations in the LGBT community. She was also a key person in the Blanchard, Bailey, and Lawrence theory controversy and in the debate over J. Michael Bailey's book The Man Who Would Be Queen, both regarding the reasons why transsexual women desire a male to female transformation.[12] McCloskey's advocacy has also faced criticism. In her comprehensive review of the episode in her book Galileo's Middle Finger, bioethicist Alice Dreger concludes that accusations levied by McCloskey and others against Bailey were "a sham. Bailey’s sworn enemies had used every clever trick in the book — juxtaposing events in misleading ways, ignoring contrary evidence, working the rhetoric, and using anonymity whenever convenient, to make it look as though virtually every trans woman represented in bailey’s book had felt abused by him and had filed a charge."[13]

McCloskey has described herself as a "literary, quantitative, postmodern, free-market, progressive Episcopalian, Midwestern woman from Boston who was once a man. Not 'conservative'! I'm a Christian libertarian."[14]


  • Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can't Explain the Modern World (November 2010), University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0226556659
  • The Cult of Statistical Significance: How the Standard Error Costs Us Jobs, Justice, and Lives (January 2008), University of Michigan Press (with Stephen T. Ziliak). ISBN 978-0472050079
  • The Bourgeois Virtues : Ethics for an Age of Commerce (June 2006), University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0226556635
  • The Economic Conversation (2008) (with Arjo Klamer and Stephen Ziliak)
  • The Secret Sins of Economics (August 2002), University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0971757530
  • Crossing: A Memoir (September 1999). New edition University of Chicago Press, 2000, ISBN 978-0226556697
  • Measurement and Meaning in Economics: The Essential Deirdre McCloskey (1999) (edited by Stephen Ziliak)
  • The Vices of Economists, the Virtues of the Bourgeoisie (1996)
  • Knowledge and Persuasion in Economics (1994), Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521436038
  • Second Thoughts: Myths and Morals of U.S. Economic History (1993)
  • A Bibliography of Historical Economics to 1980 (1990)
  • If You're So Smart: The Narrative of Economic Expertise (1990)
  • The Consequences of Economic Rhetoric (1988)
  • The Writing of Economics (1987) reprinted as Economical Writing (2000)
  • Econometric History (1987)
  • The Rhetoric of the Human Sciences: Language and Argument in Scholarship and Public Affairs (1987)
  • The Rhetoric of Economics (1985 & 1998)
  • The Applied Theory of Price (1982 & 1985)
  • Enterprise and Trade in Victorian Britain: Essays in Historical Economics (1981)
  • Economic Maturity and Entrepreneurial Decline: British Iron & Steel, 1870–1913 (1973)
  • Essays on a Mature Economy: Britain after 1840 (1971)


See also


  1. CV
  2. McCloskey, Deirdre (May 11, 2011). "Curriculum Vitae of Professor Deirdre Nansen McCloskey". Deirdre Retrieved 30 March 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Julian L. Simon Memorial Award". Competitive Enterprise Institute. 2014. Retrieved April 7, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. The Elgar Companion to the Chicago School of Economics
  5. McCloskey, Deirdre. Measurement and Meaning in Economics: The Essential Deirdre McCloskey, ed. Stephen Thomas Ziliak (Cheltenham, UK, and Northampton, Mass., USA: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2001), 350.
  6. McCloskey, Deirdre. "The Applied Theory of Price" (PDF). PDF. Deirdre Retrieved 30 March 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "People". Project on Rhetoric of Inquiry (2008-2015). The University of Iowa. Retrieved April 5, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Walsh, Matt (December 2, 2013). "Economist Deirdre McCloskey: playing both sides of the street". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved April 5, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. 9.0 9.1 McCloskey, Deirdre. "Books by Deirdre McCloskey". Deirdre Retrieved 30 March 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. McCloskey, Deirdre (2006). Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an age of Commerce. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "From Donald to Deirdre: How a man became a woman — and what it says about identity". Reason. 1999–2012. Archived from the original on 2008-06-07. Retrieved 2008-10-27. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Carey, Benedict (2007-08-21). "Criticism of a Gender Theory, and a Scientist Under Siege". New York Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Why Some of the Worst Attacks on Social Science Have Come From Liberals". Science of Us. Retrieved 2016-01-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. McCloskey, Deirdre. "Informal Biographical Remarks". Retrieved 3 January 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links