Phase 1 | Employment as a Powerful Change Engine
Over time the main literary influence on my professional life became Keynes’s The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (1936), having studied it as an undergraduate in the late 1960s. This book, combined with the belief that high employment - not only bringing jobs but driving better working conditions - was the crucial variable for improving Ireland, led to my doctoral study of the Irish employment problem.
This research produced a comprehensive Macro-econometric Model of the Irish Economy and this subsequently became the basis for the comprehensive model he developed in the early 1970s with Dr John Bradley for the Economic and Social Research Institute, Dublin. This work laid down the foundation for subsequent macro-econometric modelling, forecasting and government budget analysis at the ESRI, Central Bank, and Department of Finance which has continued until today.
Relating to the employment issue, I also explored the theory and practice of worker cooperatives and labour-directed firms as likely more employment oriented business alternatives to the capitalist firm.
With the advantage of hindsight (as Kierkegaard’s quote on the right), I see my research as having emerged from four decades of engagement with Keynes’s thinking and ideas.
This engagement focused initially on employment as the driver of change and, more recently, on Keynes and other thinkers’ ideas about how to think and how to grow Leadership Minds.
My interest in Keynes was sparked by two aspects of what I observed while growing up in the employment deficient Ireland of the 1950s -1960s: people in mid and late-teens having to emigrate in search of work opportunities and women limited to working in the home due to little other career choice whatever their preferences.
Economics was the natural subject of choice as a first means to understanding, and hopefully contributing to improving, this unsatisfactory situation.
Phase 3 | People Development and Transformation
Seeing Keynes the theorist through a business and entrepreneurial lens brought another dimension about this great thinker to the fore: as a real example of someone who escaped from powerful old ways of thinking and developed for himself a new way of thinking.
In 2015 I established The Keynes Centre on my retirement as Professor of Economics (1990-2015) at UCC both to bring my thinking about the ideas of John Maynard Keynes to a wider public and to develop these ideas for bettering the quality of people’s lives, organisations and societies.
There is much talk about people changing their behaviours, often even with the impression that it is a matter of some simple techniques or formulas, while the fact is that a change in behaviours requires a change in mind – How We Think and make sense of the world. Keynes did so to a rare degree and so is the exemplar for The Keynes Centre and our research.
This view of Keynes – as a person who, through his self-awareness conveyed the challenge of change and showed
how to change how one thinks - underpins what I now see as the third phase of my research - current projects at The Keynes Centre.
This phase is shared with a team of researchers and practitioners from various disciplines such as Journalism,
Occupational Psychology, Finance, among others, who also share Keynes’s idea of Economics as a ‘moral science’ concerned with better conduct (policy, strategy) and decision-making for a good life and his commitment to improving the quality of people’s lives, organisations, and societies.
Our research projects are underpinned by our Transformative Thinking Approach I began to work out over a decade and a half engagement with excellent participants in the UCC Executive MBA and DBA (Business Economics) programmes.
The focus was on HOW to THINK and its aim is to support transformational change at individual and organisational levels by growing people’s minds.
Currently with my colleagues at The Keynes Centre I am exploring four issues:
A New Theory of
Reading for Change
Keynes for Business
Keynes as Exemplar for
Check The Keynes Centre’s website for reading, audio-visual and interactive materials under the Resources Page.
RESEARCH & PUBLICATIONS
As a Lecturer at UCC, I drew on Keynes’s masterpiece for much of my teaching and, particularly, at postgraduate level for over a decade where I conducted a Colloquium on closely reading The General Theory with my predecessor Prof. Emeritus David O’Mahony. From the start I viewed the classroom as a laboratory for testing ideas and this proved most useful for raising research questions.
The Colloquium reading led to a variation in the interpretation of Keynes’s seminal book, one somewhat away from the standard view of Keynes as a theorist of government management of the economy.
This work also pointed towards seeing Keynes as a theorist of the business economy. In 1998, with Prof. O’Mahony, I published The General Theory of Profit Equilibrium: Keynes and the Entrepreneur Economy, centred on profit and the entrepreneur as the central concepts, to establish the business dimension of Keynes’s thinking.
Having published a book on local entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial renewal as a response to employment and crisis that hit Cork around 1984, I also published a number of papers relating to economic development in Ireland - rethinking entrepreneurship, employment generation and the role of clusters.
Phase 2 | Keynes as Business Economist
"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards." - Soren Kierkegaard