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Professor Roderick O'Donnell


Rod O'Donnell was appointed as Professor of Economics in 2009 on a 0.5 fractional, renewable contract.  Formerly Professor of Economics at Macquarie University, he has an outstanding research and teaching reputation.  He describes himself as a 'conceptual economist' -- his research covers a number of fields but is primarily  focused on the thought of JM Keynes, pluralist economics, the foundations of economic reasoning and the teaching of economics.  As well as books, journal papers and book chapters, he currently holds an ARC Grant to prepare a multi-volume edition of Keynes's remaining unpublished writings. In teaching he holds five teaching awards, including  a 2013 Australian Government Excellence in University Teaching Award.  He is co-editor of the Australian Journal of Economics Education, and was a member of the 2012-13 Economics Learning Standards Working Party.


Australian Government, Office for Learning and Teaching:   2013, Award for University Teaching Excellence

University of Technology, Sydney :  2012, UTS Teaching Award (Individual Teacher Category)

Australian Government, Learning and Teaching Council: 2008, Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning

Macquarie University: 2006, Outstanding Teacher Award; 1997, Outstanding Teacher Award.

2012-13  Member of Economics Learning Standards Working Party.

2006-13  Member and Deputy Chair of Academic Board of Insearch.

2007-               Editor, and co-editor, of Australasian Journal of Economics Education.  Revived this journal which was in danger of ceasing publication.

2004-               Editorial Board Member, Australasian Journal of Economics Education, History of Economics Review, Journal of Peer Learning.

Professor, Economics Discipline Group
BEc, BA, BE (Civil), MEngSc, PhD
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+61 2 9514 3197
+61 2 9514 7711

Research Interests

1. Macroeconomics

  • The economic thought of J.M. Keynes
  • Modern interpretations of Keynes’s economics
  • Post Keynesian economics

          2. Major Supplementary Keynes Edition

 To complete the significant unpublished writings of J.M. Keynes in all areas of his thought (approximately 12 vols).

3. Pluralist Economics

All major schools of contemporary economic thought – basic assumptions, conceptual frameworks, modes of analysis and conclusions.  Includes Neoclassical, Post Keynesian, Institutionalist, Ecological, Austrian, Marxist, Behavioural and Feminist Economics.

         4. Uncertainty and Risk

Probabilistic and non-probabilistic treatments, and their implications for economic theory and policy.

5. Teaching economics

  • Fostering valuable graduate attributes in students using pluralist curricula and activity-based pedagogy (including public speaking, creativity, leadership, gender and cultural awareness).
  • Contemporary methods of teaching economics – weaknesses and strengths.
  • Threshold concepts.

         6. Philosophy

  • The philosophical foundations of economic thought
  • Philosophies of probability and their implications for economics
  • Uses and abuses of formalism in economics.

7.  History of Economic Thought

  • Uncertainty and risk
  • Macroeconomics
  • J.M. Keynes,
  • F.H. Knight
  • R.F. Harrod.

8. Microeconomics

       Opportunity cost and its role in value theory.

Alternative Perspectives in Contemporary Economics; Economics for Business; Macroeconomics: Theory and Applications.

Book Chapters

O'Donnell, R. 2013, 'Two Post-Keynesian approaches to uncertainty and irreducible uncertainty' in G. C. Harcourt and Peter Kriesler (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Post-Keynesian Economics, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, pp. 124-142.
View/Download from: OPUS | Publisher's site
Uncertainty, especially irreducible uncertainty, is an essential component of Keynes+s General Theory and of post-Keynesian economics. Within post-Keynesianism, however, two contrasting understandings of uncertainty and its cognate concepts have emerged over the last few decades. These are the Human Abilities/Characteristics approach and the Ergodic/Nonergodic approach, which are often portrayed as epistemological uncertainty and ontological uncertainty respectively. According to the former, uncertainty is ultimately grounded on certain inescapable limitations in human knowledge and abilities to acquire knowledge, regardless of the ontology of the domain being investigated. According to the latter, uncertainty is ultimately grounded on the ontology of the domain being investigated, regardless of any limitations in human knowledge or ability. This chapter provides a detailed dissection and explanation of the core constituents of the two approaches, and concludes by summarizing their differences and posing some questions for reflection.
O'Donnell, R. 2012, 'Keynes's treatise on probability' in J. E. King (ed), The Elgar Companion to Post Keynesian Economics, Edward Elgar, UK, pp. 360-366.
O'Donnell, R. 2010, 'Economic pluralism and skill formation: Adding value to students, economies, and societies' in Garnett, R; Olsen, EK; Starr, M (eds), Economic Pluralism, Routledge, US, pp. 262-277.
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Conference Papers

O'Donnell, R. 2010, 'Some issues relating to the teaching of opportunity cost', 13th Australasian Teaching Economics Conference, Sydney, Australia, September 2008 in Enhancing the Effectiveness of Learning and Teaching in Economics: Proceedings of the 13th Australasian Teaching Economics Conference, ed John Lodewijks and Rod O'Donnell, Lambert Academic Publishing, US, pp. 94-100.
O'Donnell, R. 2009, 'Threshold concepts and their relevance to economics', Australian Conference of Economists 2009, Adelaide, Australia, September 2009.
O'Donnell, R. 2009, 'The concept of opportunity cost: Is it simple, fundamental or necessary?', Annual Conference of the Multinational Finance Society, Vancouver, Canada, June 2009.
O'Donnell, R. 2009, 'Threshold concepts and their relevance to economics', 14th Annual Australasian Teaching Economics Conference, Brisbane, Australia, July 2009.
O'Donnell, R. 2009, 'Fostering creativity and innovation in tertiary students', Asia Pacific Symposium on Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Sydney, Australia, April 2009.
O'Donnell, R. 2009, 'Solving the creativity and innovation problem in higher education', International Centre for Innovation in Education Conference, Ulm, Germany, August 2009.

Journal Articles

O'Donnell, R. 2012, 'A macroeconomics forecasting game: Description and evaluation', Australasian Journal of Economics Education, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 21-39.
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macroeconomic games, large class learning, forecasting and risk.
O'Donnell, R. 2011, 'Keynes and the general theory after seventy-five years', History of Economics Review, vol. Summer, no. 54.
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On the 75Th anniversary of the publication of The General Theory, this paper explores the framework of Keynes's thought as a whole, his development of a realistic and insightful analysis of a monetary production economy, and the practical conclusions that these entail. Ranging across philosophy, economics and politics, it comments on the approach needed to understand his distinctive thinking, some of the central elements of his analytical framework, the fate of the Keynesian revolution, his emphasis on reason and humanity, and his hope that individual greed and acquisition might be replaced in the future by non-economic, goodnessenhancing activities. The paper also argues that it is not sufficient to read The General Theory in isolation as a self-contained work if one wants to understand its pioneering nature fully. Three questions are posed by way of conclusion-why is Keynes so different from, more difficult to understand, and yet more appealing than, many modem economists?
O'Donnell, R. 2009, 'The permanent need for political economy', Agenda, vol. 16, no. 4, pp. 89-99.
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My purpose here is to offer, in hindsight, an assessment of the significance of the dispute in terms of its two underlying issues + the nature of economics and the role of university ideals. I write as someone who was a student activist, both inside and outside official channels, from 1974 to 1977 during the first major phase of the dispute, who graduated with degrees in economics (BEc) and philosophy (BA) and who, supported by scholarships from Sydney University, took a doctorate in Economics at Cambridge prior to returning to Australia and an academic career.
O'Donnell, R. 2009, 'The concept of opportunity cost: Is it simple, fundamental or necessary?', Australasian Journal of Economics Education, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 21-37.
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Surveys by Ferraro and Taylor (2005) point to abysmal understandings of the concept of opportunity cost by US undergraduates, graduates and faculty, and raise important pedagogical and conceptual issues. One implication is that the concept is poorly taught in textbooks and classrooms, from which it follows that remedies are needed. Three further implications strongly influence the nature and extent of these remedies. These are that opportunity cost is not a simple concept but a difficult one, that it is not a fundamental economic concept but a subordinate one, and that graduates do not require a good understanding of the concept for successful careers as economists. This paper presents logical arguments supporting these propositions, and discusses their bearing on general strategies for dealing with the pedagogical problem.
O'Donnell, R. 2006, 'Keynes's principles of writing (innovative) economics', The Economic Record, vol. 82, no. 259, pp. 396-407.
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This paper investigates Keynes+s writings in the 1920s and 30s to uncover his views on the writing of economics, especially the writing of innovative or path-breaking works. His ideas were mainly presented in comments on other economists (particularly Marshall, Jevons and Malthus), and in reflections on his own experiences (chiefly in his 1932-33 lectures and a 1934 draft preface to the General Theory). These ideas are converted into five underlying principles, the implications of which are discussed in terms of their impact on the clarity and interpretation of his writings and of their relevance to all writings in economics
O'Donnell, R. 2004, 'What kind of economics graduates do we want? A constructive critique of Hansen++s proficiencies approach', Australasian Journal of Economics Education, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 41-6-.
O'Donnell, R. 1999, 'The genesis of the only diagram in the general theory', Journal of the History of Economic Thought, vol. 21, no. 1, pp. 27-37.
O'Donnell, R. 1990, 'Keynes on mathematics: Philosophical foundations and economic applications', Cambridge Journal of Economics, vol. 14, no. 1-2, pp. 29-47.