Learning to Think Like an Economist
Maxime Ladrière from Belgium has spent the last ten years between France, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Russia. Currently, he is working towards his second Master’s degree in the ‘Politics. Economics. Philosophy’ programme in the Faculty of Social Sciences at HSE University in Moscow.
Studying Political Philosophy and Economics in the Capital of Russia
I wanted to continue my education by studying economics, but I was not sure I wanted to study in a programme uniquely devoted to this discipline. The idea was to learn how to think like an economist, while keeping a ‘regard éloigné’. In other words, I wanted to study the techniques and the theories, while putting them into perspective. I suppose that this desire is a direct consequence of my training in history. I liked the idea of studying political philosophy and economics at the same time. As for the political science dimension of my master’s studies, I was not particularly enthusiastic about it in the beginning. But it has turned out to be more interesting than I expected.
My academic profile is a bit unusual in comparison to that of my classmates: I am the only one working on a second master's degree. Before arriving here, I earned my bachelor’s degree at the Catholic University of Louvain, and then I moved to Paris to study at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales, known as the EHESS
Another important dimension was Moscow—for me, a new geographical location and culture. I had never been to Russia before and instead of going to the West for higher education, I thought that going in the opposite direction could be more productive.
By working on economic sanctions, I have chosen a thesis topic that is at the crossroads of the different disciplines included in my master’s studies. I have the chance of being advised by specialists belonging to different faculties: this is particularly rewarding. In my master’s studies here, time is probably the most difficult dimension to manage. The programme is pretty rigorous.
I would say that, after arrival, your expectations probably undergo some adjusting. You inevitably face a reality that does not fit your fantasies and ideals. There are always pleasant surprises and disappointments; but the general trend here at the HSE has been extremely positive. After a year, you already know what to expect after the summer break.
From Moscow to Geneva and Beyond
I particularly liked the courses of Martin Gilman on the current issues of international economics, the return to the roots of economic thinking with Oleg Ananyin and Vladimir Avtonomov, the beauty of experiments with Vasily Klucharev and his course entitled Neuroeconomics, the refined analyses of Mikhail Mironyuk on the international system, the passionate discussions about the theories of justice with Boris Kashnikov, the initiation to Russian politics with Boris Makarenko, and Leonid Grigoriev's interesting anecdotes about the Soviet economy. Very thought-provoking.
I have recently begun a six-month internship at the World Trade Organisation in Geneva. There, I am working in the Economic Research and Statistics Division on the World Trade Report 2020, devoted this year to new industrial policies. This is a great opportunity to work with a team of economists in a multilateral institution. Here, I can not only use and improve my technical and theoretical skills, but also practice Russian!
It is difficult to say precisely what I will do or where I will be in three or four years. There is however a general direction that I want to follow. Ideally, I would love to be involved in international relations and politics, while at the same time having a research and writing activity. What is certain is that I want to keep and nourish my links with Russia. In two years, you have enough time to build strong friendships and to become addicted to fermented mushrooms—it would be hard to part with them forever!