European Society for the History of Economic Thought

Markets, Productivity and Happiness in a Historical Perspective - Padua, 9-11 June 2022

Deadline for submissions: 14 February 2022

25th Annual ESHET Conference
Call For Papers

The 25th Annual Conference of the European Society for the History of Economic Thought (ESHET) will take place in Padua on 9-11 June 2022. Proposals for papers or sessions on all aspects of the history of economic thought are welcome.

An abstract of about 400 words for a paper and 600 words for a session should be submitted on the conference website no later than 14 February 2022.

Decisions will be notified by 31 March 2022.

Note that: a) published papers are not eligible for submission; b) only one conference presentation is allowed per person (but more than one submission may be accepted, if involving co-authors who are also presenting); c) session proposals must conform with standard format (3 papers, 90 minutes).

The decision to hold the conference entirely in person may be subject to later changes in accordance with the evolution of the pandemic.

Theme of the Conference
Markets, Productivity and Happiness in a Historical Perspective

The theme of the conference is inspired by a rather widespread thesis in today’s economic debate: namely, that shifting the focus of economic discourse from individual utility to the concept of happiness might deeply affect our way of thinking about productivity (as a measure of the power to meet needs) and the market (as an institutional device for negotiating transferable rights). In fact, once happiness replaces individual utility, the link, traditionally taken for granted, between increase in productivity and competitiveness and higher utility for at least someone without sacrifice for anyone is no longer so obvious. Whatever its definition, happiness is a qualitative concept that cannot generally be reduced to a completely comparable order in terms of “more”, “less”, “equal”. Moreover, happiness is an organic/relational concept that is generally not divisible into individual portions independent of each other and of the whole.

Productivity and the extension of competitive markets influence happiness not only through the well-known effects on quantities and prices of goods and services, but also in that they define people’s lifestyles and inter-personal relationships. All these aspects are determinants of happiness at least as important as the attainable levels of material satisfaction. The variations they produce are not only of scale but also of pattern, and therefore they require more complex value judgments than the “more = better” criterion usually referred to by economists. This latter kind of judgment could justify some economists’ claim of “cognitive neutrality” for their discipline but judging the quality of happiness or unhappiness associated with a given social pattern inevitably brings to the fore the ethical and political dimensions of any such assessment.

As historians of HET we may wonder whether the foregoing is something new and opens to hitherto unknown perspectives or instead it is simply new verbal wrapping for long existing problems dealt with in different ways in the past.

Moreover, we may wonder if and how the emphasis on happiness involves discontinuity and rupture rather than enrichment and integration with respect to previous theories. Purely by way of example, without claiming to be exhaustive, we indicate some of the problematic areas that seem to us most directly involved in the theme of the conference:

  • Public happiness versus Pareto efficiency in the field of social choice and welfare
  • The idea of productivity in the different schools of economic thought
  • Production of non-excludable goods, in particular environmental goods, versus excludable goods
  • Market versus non-market rights trading instruments
  • Economic growth and happiness
  • Productivity and happiness
  • Happy/unhappy growth/degrowth
  • Degrowth proposals
  • The difference (and potential contrast) between growth and development
  • Inequality as a pattern of social unhappiness
  • Productivity and quality of life
  • Productivity and sustainability
  • Markets and the ecological issue

Scientific Committee

Richard Arena, Université Côte d’Azur
Katia Caldari, University of Padua
Marco Dardi, University of Florence
Fulvio Fontini, University of Padua
Christian Gehrke, University of Graz
Maria Teresa Musacchio, University of Padua
Maria Pia Paganelli, Trinity University
Mario Pomini, University of Padua
Sylvie Rivot, UNiversité de Haute-Alsace
Paolo Silvestri, University of Turin
Claudia Sunna, University of Lecce
Gianfranco Tusset, University of Padua
Richard Van Den Berg, Kingston Business School


ESHET invites young scholars – persons currently enrolled in a PhD, or who have been awarded a PhD no more than two years prior to the date of the relevant ESHET conference (and regardless of age) – to submit their work to the Young Scholars Seminar to be held on the occasion of the ESHET Conference at the University of Padua Italy, 9-11 June 2022. Papers co-authored by PhD supervisors or other senior researchers are not eligible. The grants for the scholars selected to the Young Scholars Seminar are sponsored by the European Journal of the History of Economic Thought.

Up to six submissions will be selected: The travel expenses will be covered up to €300, the accommodation costs up to €80/night for three nights, and no registration fee will be charged. Moreover, the grantee scholars will be invited to the conference dinner. The authors of the selected papers will have 20 minutes each to present the paper, and a senior scholar will discuss it. Papers may be on any topic relevant to the history of economics and are not restricted to the conference theme.

ESHET encourages young scholars to participate in the conference. A one-year ESHET membership is offered to all young scholars who submit a paper. Papers that have not been selected for the grant will be considered for presentation at other ESHET 2022 conference sessions.

Candidates should e-mail a paper no longer than 9000 words to Professors SYLVIE RIVOT ( and CHRISTIAN GEHRKE ( and KATIA CALDARI ( by 14 February 2022.

Please include documentation of your (and your co-authors’) position vis-à-vis your PhD and indicate in the subject of your e-mail: For Young Scholar Seminar.

Decisions can be expected by 31 March 2022.