25.8. Mary S. Morgan / Making Economic Concepts Fit for Public Action / Argumenta Distinguished Lecture

Mary S. Morgan / Argumenta Distinguished Lecture 
Time: 25th of August 2023, 14:00-16:00 
Place: Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40), sali 2 
Title: Making Economic Concepts Fit for Public Action
Zoom link: https://helsinki.zoom.us/s/66548865181
Meeting ID: 665 4886 5181, Salasana: 422490

Professor Mary S. Morgan from the London School of Economics will visit University of Helsinki on the 25th of August 2023, 14:00-16:00. She will talk about economic concepts and measurements such as ‘poverty’, ‘development’ and ‘national income’, and what needs to be done to make fit for public action.” 

The talk offers an opportunity for everyone, especially social scientists and people interested in policy and politics, to understand better how economic measurement can be used for holding politicians accountable for their actions. Students are also highly welcome. Mary is known for her ability to present her ideas in a clear way that captures the attention of her listeners.  

Mark your calendar and come to Metsätalo Friday August 25, 2023 14-16 to learn more about economic measurement, and its role and possibilities on the political decision-making. The talk is open to the public and free of charge. You can also watch it streamed online, and the recording will be published on Youtube a few weeks after the event. 


Economic concepts and measurements have a bigger influence on our daily lives than we realise. Think about terms such as ‘poverty,’ ‘development,’ and ‘national income.’ They seem clear but measuring them is quite tricky. They are in fact big umbrella terms covering lots of different things in the economy. And putting all those things together to get useful measurements of the bigger concepts is hard because the information comes from different places, in lots of different forms, and it is not obvious how to fit them together. 

Now, those measurements aren’t just for show. They have some power to make things happen! Usage of those numbers influences how people and policymakers do things in response to economic and social problems, and so change economic behaviour. That is, the way we measure things such as ‘poverty,’ ‘development,’ and ‘national income’ can change the economic reality we are faced with. 

How does this work? Who uses these numbers? Why and how? Interestingly, a closer look into these questions reveals that in order to act on the information in these measurements, they need to be broken back down into smaller pieces. This seems puzzling since they were initially constructed from bringing together multiple smaller numbers and ideas to form the measurements of those concepts. But those big overall numbers are just not usable to do real things in the economy.The unexpected result of breaking these numbers down into pieces is to give regular people and local actors the power to make sure the government is doing what it said it would in terms of economic improvements. So, understanding the pieces that constitute those big umbrella terms such as ‘poverty,’ ‘development,’ and ‘national income’ can help in keeping the policymakers and the government accountable. 

About Mary S. Morgan 

Mary S. Morgan is the Albert O. Hirschman Professor of History and Philosophy of Economics at the London School of Economics; she is an elected Fellow of the British Academy; an Overseas Fellow of the Royal Dutch Academy of Arts and Sciences; and is currently President of the Royal Economic Society (2023-24).  

She has published widely on social scientists’ practices of modelling, observing, measuring, and making case studies; and has long-standing interests in tracing how social science research is used to effect change in the world. She has just completed an ERC team project on ‘Narrative Science’ investigating the functions of narratives across the natural, human and social sciences. 

You can find more information about Mary S. Morgan on her website.

This talk is part of the ReSES Argumenta Distinguished Lectures series, organised by the Rethinking the Serviceability of Economics to Society (ReSES) project. The project is funded by the Finnish Cultural Foundation and aims to rethink the role of economics in society and how it can address the current and future challenges. 

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