Wesleyan portrait of Richard  Adelstein

Richard Adelstein

Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics, Emeritus


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BS Massachusetts Institute of Technology
JD University of Pennsylvania
MAA Wesleyan University
MAT Harvard University
PHD University of Pennsylvania

Richard Adelstein

My teaching and scholarly interests lie at the intersection of economics, law, history and philosophy. More particularly, I'm interested in the historical development of social institutions like markets, firms and common law and the problem of how social order is created and maintained in various environments and changes as those environments change. 

I was not a successful undergraduate, and left MIT in 1968 with a bachelor's degree in history and engineering. I earned a master's degree in teaching and, in 1970-71, taught junior-high level history at two Massachusetts state prisons. This drew me to a career in corrections, and I set out to become a lawyer, so I could become a prison warden. But upon entering law school, I was given a chance to get a PhD in economics as well, and began study of both these subjects for the first time. So I was an interdisciplinarian from the start, and received both a JD and a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 1975. A one-year job at Wesleyan was the only offer I received, and I've been here ever since. Teaching only very talented and critically minded undergraduates, I've been able to develop these interdisciplinary interests across a range of fields and in pursuit of a more or less constant fascination with the evolution of similar or cognate social institutions across different environments, time and cultures.

Academic Affiliations

Office Hours

Find me at radelstein@wesleyan.edu, or on Zoom.