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Faculty Lecture: Inequality to Solidarity

Professor Emerita of Economics Julie Matthaei spoke to twenty-six area alums whose years of graduation spanned 1955 to 2020 on September 16 via Zoom. The audience included at least two of the speaker’s former students. She set her lecture on the evolution of economic theory and practice in the context of her own personal and professional development, from starting as a barefoot, hippie undergraduate at Stanford in 1970 to becoming a radical feminist economics professor at Wellesley for more than 40 years. She credited Wellesley students in the 1970s for encouraging the economics department to hire the kind of economics professor they were exposed to during their junior year abroad study of economics at European campuses. Professor Matthaei was the first such hire.

Her program centered on her current book project, From Inequality to Solidarity: Co-Creating a New Economics for the 21st Century. Professor Matthaei looked at the two poles of the modern American economy built on a foundation of hierarchy and domination. The realization that this economic model does not work for vast numbers of Americans has moved some economists to embrace “solidarity” practices and institutions based on socially responsible agency. In the Pioneer Valley we witness such economic and social activity at Black Lives Matter protests and in support of local agriculture through CSA shares, co-housing, and food cooperatives. Change is created by crises such as those that confront us—the climate, violence, unemployment, poverty, and alienation. Social movements such as feminism, struggles for civil and workers’ rights often result. The solidarity economy, evident in some Nordic nations, strives for shared values, cooperation, and equality. Time will tell how the American economy and society fares.


You can find information about Professor Matthaei’s publications here.