Macroeconomists and the stagflation – Essays on macroeconomy’s transformation in the 1970’e

Doctoral thesis of  Aurélien Goutsmedt, presented on December 11, 2017 – Université Paris I Panthéon Sorbonne.

Summary.

This thesis focuses on the transformations of macroeconomics in the United States during the 1970s, while questioning the way to study and to analyze these transformations. From the point of view of economic history, the period seems to mark a break with the relative stability of the post World War II years. This period of economic stability, that one calls “stagflation”, echoes the instability of U.S. macroeconomic theory. The consensus of the time, regarded as “Keynesian”, is attacked by economists labeled as “Monetarist” and “New Classical”. The last group is the one of “revolutionaries”, regarding as having radically transformed the discipline, as the Copernican revolution overthrown the geocentric representation of the universe. My goal in the thesis is to study the influence of New Classical economists on macroeconomics in the 1970s, by appealing to an historiographical framework which puts at the heart the role played by the stagflation, and by confronting the results of this work to the standard narrative.
This thesis is built around four articles, independent from one another. The first chapter proposes a comparison between the methodologies of Lucas and Sargent, and shows how the latter intend to give a more realistic character to the new classical economy models, by using rational expectations to describe di erent economic phenomena. The second chapter takes interest in the confrontation between Lucas and Sargent on one side, and the defenders of structural econometric models on the other. The third chapter studies the evolution in the works of Robert Gordon on inflation in the 1970s, and documents the way he gradually adopts the natural rate of unemployment hypothesis. Finally, the chapter four is interested in the empirical debates in the early 1980s, about the Lucas critique.