Ross Emmett


My research is concerned with various aspects of the relationship between basic economic institutions and their cultural, legal and political contexts. I examine how economists, social and political theorists, and theologians have construed those relations throughout history. I also compare how they are configured in different societies today, with a particular focus on their impact on innovation and entrepreneurship.

Current academic papers are available on the Social Science Research Network

My c.v.: short versionlong version

Comparative Political Economy of Innovation & Entrepreneurship

What makes for an innovation and entrepreneurial society? Since arriving in Michigan seven years ago, that question has emerged as a central issue in my teaching and research. I have led five teams of James Madison College students on explorations of the policy frameworks that promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the Michigan Futures Seminar, and supervised several other students on research projects related to the topics. I have also been teaching an elective on the topic for a couple of years; my book project on The Constitution of Innovation emerges from lectures given in that class.

The History of Chicago Economics

The majority of my past research has been on Frank H. Knight, the Chicago economist and philosopher who wrote Risk, Uncertainty, and Profit (1921) and played an instrumental role in development of the Chicago approach to economics while also serving as the department’s intellectual connection to social philosophy and ethics.  More recently, I have begun to work on the development of the postwar Chicago School and the connection between Chicago economics and the Committee on Social Thought. My key contributions to the study of Frank Knight and Chicago economics are included in Frank Knight and the Chicago School in American Economics (Routledge, 2009).

Classical Political Economy

During 2005, I had the opportunity to be a Julian Simon Fellow at the Property & Environment Research Center in Bozeman, MT, where I finally had the opportunity to begin writing about T. Robert Malthus. I have continued to follow my interest in Malthus and have plans for an eventual book. An invitation to the Templeton Foundation conference on Adam Smith as Theologian provided the opportunity for me to write up an argument about Smith’s visible hand (not a typo! – something different than his “invisible hand”), which will be published in the conference volume. Much of my interest in classical political economy coincides with my interests in comparative political economy and the relation between religion and economics.

Religion and Political Economy

I began my study of economics in order to understand how it had supplanted religion as the central mode of social thought in the modern world. That interest has continued as an undercurrent through my study of Frank Knight, and my emerging interest in other questions of political economy. Several essays at the end of Frank Knight and the Chicago School in American Economics (Routledge, 2009) address issues related to economics and religion. I am writing an essay on the history of economics and religion from the mid-19th century through the 20th century, and have been writing short articles on theology, globalization and political economy for my other website (love. babel. mammon.)