Leo Model Professor of Economics
To reach Duncan Foley’s office, you must first wade through the students diligently at work outside his door. Foley maintains a one-on-one independent study relationship with his students, helping MA candidates conduct independent research and PhD candidates transform their personal study and paper assignments into thesis research. In addition, Foley has co-authored six published papers with students. The relationships he fosters aren’t a one-way street, however. According to Foley, he learns a great deal from working with his students, particularly on methodological issues. “They often know much more about what they’re studying—for example, the economics of India or the economics of commodity markets—than I do, so I learn indirectly from them.”
Foley began his research more than 40 years ago in an attempt to introduce money into non-Marxian general equilibrium theory. After losing interest in economics due to the narrowness of the neoclassical mainstream, Foley began to read more Marx and other classical political economists. This new research sparked his interest in political economy, an interest he has maintained through today as he continues to work on integrating money into the Marxian and Smithian system. Naturally, Foley infuses political economy into his teaching, incorporating a healthy dose of the history of ideas and history of economics into his courses. This method allows him to present contending ideas, points of view, and schools of thought, which make for a better intellectual environment for students. Through his and his colleagues’ efforts, the NSSR economics department has become one of the few places in the world that teaches political economy in such a thoughtful and rigorous manner.
The reputation of NSSR economics students extends far beyond the campus. Foley notes that visiting professors often remark how much they enjoy teaching at The New School because the students are not intimidated and can carry on a free intellectual dialogue with the faculty. Foley states that prospective students should be intellectually curious, willing to question perceived doctrine and hold rigorous debates. Alumni exemplifying these traits have gone on to hold high-ranking financial positions in foreign countries and thus influence macroeconomic policy. Others have become research directors in labor unions, local and national government, and think tanks, influencing various social policies including pensions, retirement, and discrimination.