October 18, 2016
- Adam Bacher
Professor of Economics
Years Served: 38
Path to Lewis & Clark:
I was a math major at the University of California at Santa Cruz. I played a lot of basketball there. Early in my senior year, while shooting baskets at the gym, I met an economics professor who talked up the relevance of economics for understanding how the world works. It made sense to me, and I decided to pursue a graduate degree in economics. Initially, I thought I would become a researcher but, after serving as a teaching fellow, I found I also enjoyed teaching. My first job was at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. I liked it there, but the Pacific Northwest called—my wife-to-be was doing her graduate work in Eugene, Oregon. After a year as a community organizer in Eugene—and two years teaching at Willamette University—a position opened up at Lewis & Clark. The economics department needed an immediate replacement for someone who had left to pursue work in banking. I was hired for a one-year position. That year, students voted me the best first-year professor, an award no longer given at the college, and I was chosen by the department for the tenure-track position. That was some 38 years ago.
Favorite courses to teach:
I enjoyed teaching all my classes, but my favorites were Economic Development, Radical Political Economy, and Principles of Economics. Development was special because of the strong international experiences and interests of Lewis & Clark students, and teaching them helped me sharpen my own thinking about development issues. Radical Political Economy and Principles were favorites because they allowed me to challenge students to think critically about the contradictions and class dynamics that drive our economic system and encourage them to develop their own abilities to become effective activists.
What you’ve enjoyed most about your work:
Most of all, I loved engaging students about important issues and helping them explore new ways of understanding contemporary economic, political, and social developments. Teaching also allowed me to test my own ideas and discover new areas for research. I also loved the freedom to pursue my own evolving interests. For example, midway through my time at Lewis & Clark, I shifted my teaching and research focus from Latin America to East Asia, especially South Korea and China. At the time, the mainstream of the economics profession was celebrating South Korea as a free-market miracle and model for Latin American countries. But as I started researching the South Korean experience, I found that the country’s growth had far more to do with its powerful state than free-market forces, and growth came at great social cost. So I began writing about the Korean experience. This work led to my being hired as a Korea consultant in 1993 by the American Friends Service Committee and to travel for them to both North and South Korea, Japan, the Russian Far East, and Northeast China in order to help the organization develop initiatives for promoting a more helpful U.S. foreign policy towards the two Koreas. Other international opportunities followed, including a research position at Gyeongsang National University in South Korea and consulting work with the Asia Monitor Research Center in Hong Kong on Asian labor conditions and organizing. I also greatly value the experiences I had traveling and learning as part of Lewis & Clark’s overseas study program; my wife and I led four groups, to Hungry, South Korea, Ecuador, and Ireland.
What you’ll miss:
I’ll greatly miss being around students who are eager to learn about the economy; conversations with colleagues about pedagogy; Lewis & Clark politics; and local, national, and international political-economic developments. Also, I’ll miss the intellectual discipline that comes from teaching.
What you’re most proud of:
I’m proud of many things. Over a 38-year career at Lewis & Clark, I’ve never stopped trying to challenge students and myself to understand and develop appropriate responses to critical economic issues. I’m proud of my scholarship, which includes six books and dozens of articles addressing the consequences of and alternatives to capitalist globalization; my efforts to strengthen faculty governance at Lewis and Clark College, including organizing for a faculty union and chairing and then reconstituting a strong faculty budget committee after a past administration had ordered it to disband; and my work promoting interdisciplinary education, in particular creating and directing the political economy minor and directing the Asian Studies program. And I’m also proud of my work with labor unions and community organizations in the U.S. and other countries, trying to help build strong and democratic movements for progressive change.
Life after Lewis & Clark gives me more time to work with Portland Jobs with Justice, where I am on the executive board and chair a committee involved in supporting unionization and a higher minimum wage. I also plan to explore the Pacific Northwest, visit my children in California and Wisconsin, and continue researching and writing about globalization, still with a focus on Asia.