Professor Paul Zarembka’s research and teaching focuses on Marxist Theory, US labor history, and economic development. He received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin. Professor Zarembka has taught History of Economic Thought (ECO 207), History of the American Labor Movement (ECO 206), Marxian Economic Theory (ECO 436), and facilitated our graduate student seminar series (ECO 794), among other undergraduate and graduate courses! He will be retiring at the end of this semester. As a Research Professor, Professor Zarembka will continue to research, publish, and edit Research in Political Economy.
Why did you choose economics? Why did you choose your subfield?
PZ: As an undergraduate I was student body president at Purdue University, and that experience represented my interest in politics. But I then felt that politics is driven by economics. I still feel so. I chose the University of Wisconsin – Madison for graduate work because of its progressive past (many in the FDR administration came from there). Given my interest in poverty, I completed a Ph.D. dissertation in the economic development of low-income countries, then as a neoclassical-trained economist.
What research are you working on right now?
PZ: I have just published a book entitled Key Elements of Social Theory Revolutionized by Marx, already available online at UB libraries. It tries to capture where Marx made his significant contributions relative to other political economists, while also suggesting where there are outstanding problems. I think Marx’s class approach is a firm foundation for understanding our world better, so driven by the ugliness of capitalism and its individualism. Yet, Marx’s theory based upon class relation to means of production is also only a start, a foundation.
What was your favorite paper to write, and why?
PZ: This is a difficult question to answer but I will choose my work on Rosa Luxemburg, who seems to be the first woman in the world with a Ph.D. in political economy. She is also my favorite Marxist after Marx, and wrote an important book The Accumulation of Capital. Her work connects to my personal past as she was from Poland, as was my father and is my wife. She was murdered in Berlin in 1919, due to her revolutionary support of workers.
What is your favorite class to teach, and why?
PZ: My favorite class depends more upon the students than anything else. I want students at least to appreciate Marx’s political economy as an alternative to neoclassical economics. I feel strongly that every economics student should know the history of economic thought. But I also like them to know what has been the experience of American workers, when teaching the History of the American Labor Movement, including a leader such as Eugene Debs that Bernie Sanders also admires.
What is your top piece of advice for your students?
PZ: UB offers a semester or year abroad. Living in another country than the United States will reward for life in appreciation for lives others live, even in the simplest concerns!