Enacting Dismal Science

Part of the series Perspectives from Social Economics pp 151-181


The IS–LMization of the General Theory and the Construction of Hydraulic Governability in Postwar Keynesian Macroeconomics

  • Hanno PahlAffiliated withSociology Department, University of Munich
  • , Jan SparsamAffiliated withSociology Department, University of Munich


The text contributes to the largely uncharted terrain of performativity and macroeconomics. What are the gains and limitations of the performativity perspective when the field of interest is not a single market or trading technique, but a vast, complex and occasionally diffuse field, consisting of various macroeconomic forces as well as competing political players? First, we analyze how the complex and multilayered narratives of Keynes’s General Theory were transformed into the epochal IS–LM model and how this mathematically formalized and visually appealing tool served as an organizing cognitive landscape for the emerging field of (Keynesian) macroeconomics. In an ensuing case study, we reconstruct key aspects of the diffusion of this ‘IS-LMised’ version of Keynes’s General Theory into policy circles in West Germany in the 1960s.