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In the Economic Trenches with Dr. Duggan

Whether it's an analysis of what Keynes would do about China, the deindustrialization of Keene, NH, or 18th century works of Spanish Enlightenment, Dr. Marie Duggan has her fingers in a lot of economic pies.

"I am a global economic historian and historian of economic ideas," she says.

For Duggan, the spring was all about Spanish immersion: reading late 18th century Spanish Enlightenment works by Conde Pedro de Campomanes, Melchor de Jovellanos–and modern Spanish commentary by Luis Perdices and Vicent Llombart, but not just for pleasure. This work will be combined with a project she completed more than a decade ago when she built a database of the Spanish economy in Mexican archives. The two projects will go into a book called Behind the Veil of 1848: Piety and Profits in Alta California’s Economy, which Dr. Duggan is currently writing.

The delay in bringing these two pieces together came for good reason.

"In the 2000s I got sidetracked by the global financial crisis," she says. "I became interested in Keynes’ writings of the 1920s because he wrote with great insight about the links between production and finance, and because the unstable financial flows of the 1920s seem rather like those of the Noughties (2000-2010)."

Recently, Dr. Duggan's article entitled Taking Back Globalization: A China-United States Counterfactual Using Keynes’s 1941 International Clearing Union was published in the Review of Radical Political Economics. Her piece is an attempt, she says, to figure out how Keynes would advise the US today to defang free trade so that it would benefit working people.

Dr. Marie Duggan and students at a presentation to the business community of Keene.
Dr. Marie Duggan and students at a presentation to the business community of Keene.

When Keynes is not foremost in her mind, she's in the trenches with her students. In 2012, she began a long-term project with students on the deindustrialization and reindustrialization in Keene, which she says is, "taking me into the uncharted territory of heterodox theories."

Working with Dr. Duggan, students collected oral histories from machinists, engineers, and managers to understand industrial change in Keene from 1970-2012. Her students then met with executives from some of Keene’s most innovative firms to present their findings.

Facilitated by Mary Ann Kristiansen of the Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship, students were able to present to and speak with Ray Anderson of Knappe and Koester, who had given the class a tour of his cutting-edge machine shop earlier in the semester and Don Brehm, founder of Pneumo among others. During the meeting, Maureen Curtis of Timken MPB reminded the group that a good financial expert can shine the light on the origins of profits or losses. She also echoed a sentiment the student researchers had heard from their interviews: not enough young people are attracted by manufacturing careers.

Student David Schuster shared his findings on the impact of the industrial cluster spawned by Pneumo with metrology, diamond turning machines, and optics in Keene while student Michelle Patridge described how an industrial cluster promotes innovation.

Meanwhile, student Greg Hall discussed the industrial history of the Connecticut River Valley, including Pratt and Whitney in Hartford, and Bryant Grinding in Springfield, VT and student Francis Bonnell discussed the printing business at Markem under F.A. and David Putnam.

Student Chris Hinchey discussed how MPB came to Keene and founded precision grinding here, and Joe Katin discussed how Timken had invested against the cycle in a smelting plant in the early 1980s, using the latest technology from Japan.

Dan Bayrouty discussed that machinists like to be managed by hands-on people, which is one reason workers in Springfield, VT were unhappy when Textron bought out Fellows Gearshaper, Bryant Grinding, and Jones and Lamson in the 1970s. Pat Murphy explained that sales of machine tool firms are extremely cyclical, and in downturns, the conglomerate may favor businesses that are less impacted. Joe Bohenek discussed the culture of innovation promoted by social ties between technical people; for example, the Keene Astronomy Club may foster ties between people who make lenses.

The project is ongoing, although that work will be on the back burner until Dr. Duggan returns from Sabbatical in Fall 2014.


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