The Saurman Provocative Lecture Series

Have you been provoked lately?

San Jose State University Department of Economics presents the Provocative Lecture Series, a forum to raise intellectual arguments on a variety of thought-provoking topics, offered in memory of David S. Saurman, Ph.D., former Professor in the Department of Economics.

This lecture series fosters the tradition in higher education of challenging ideas and developing critical thinking in an environment of respect and intellectual discourse on controversial topics. Presenters in the Provocative Lecture Series are noted for their outstanding scholarship and public speaking ability; students, faculty, the general public, as well as the media are invited.

Our goal is to help students and life-long learners develop the critical thinking skills necessary to reach their own informed positions on controversial issues. We invite you to attend, relax, ponder, and enjoy the thought process at upcoming lectures. You can also enjoy viewing recordings of past lectures at the video archive.

If you would like to support The Saurman Provocative Lecture Series, please see donation details or contact Colleen Haight at

Upcoming Lectures

Fall 2019

September 18, 2019, Wed. 
David Skarbek, Ph.D.
SJSU, SU Theater  |  5:15-6:45pm  |  free, open to public
“The Social Order of the Underworld: How Prison Gangs Govern the American Penal System”,flyer (pdf)

When many people think of prison gangs, they think of chaotic bands of violent, racist thugs. Few people think of gangs as sophisticated organizations (often with elaborate written constitutions) that regulate the social and economic life of the prison. David Skarbek argues that gangs form to create order among outlaws, producing alternative governance institutions to facilitate illegal activity. His award-winning book, The Social Order of the Underworld: How Prison Gangs Govern the American Penal System. New York: Oxford Univ. , 2014. is a fascinating look into the seemingly irrational, truly astonishing, and often tragic
world of life among the society of captives.

Dr. Skarbek studies the political economy of institutions and institutional
change, with a focus on collective action, norms, and ethnic conict. His
current project explains the operation of informal institutions within
prisons globally. His work has appeared in both economics and political
science journals, including the American Political Science Review and the
Journal of Law, Economics, & Organization.

October 30, 2019, Wed. 
Alexa Tabarrok, Ph.D.
SJSU, SU Theater  |  5:15-6:45pm  |  free, open to public


November 19, 2019, Tues. 
Marc Joffe, Ph.D.
SJSU, SU Theater  |  5:15-6:45pm  |  free, open to public
More info to come...

Past Lectures

April 23rd, 2019 
Robert L. Bradley, Jr.
SJSU, SU Theater  |  5:15-6:45pm  |  free, open to public
“Mixed-Economy Entrepreneurship: What is a Capitalist to Do?”, flyer (pdf)

March 18th, 2019  
Linda Royster Beito, Ph.D., Professor, Stillman College. Ph.D. University of Alabama
“T.R.M. Howard: Doctor, Entrepreneur, Civil Rights Pioneer", flyer (pdf)

February 19th, 2019  
Channy Chhi Laux
"The Cambodian Genocide and Communism", flyer (pdf)

November 8, 2018 
Howard Root, 
Founder and CEO of Vascular Solutions, Inc.
"Who Watches the Prosecutors?", flyer (pdf) 

October 10, 2018  
Adam Andrzejewski, 
CEO and Founder of Open the Books
“Knowledge is Power”, flyer (pdf) 

September 27, 2018  
Safwan Shah, Ph.D, 
CEO and Founder PayActive
“Helping Low-Income Workers Get Ahead: A Market Solution”, flyer (pdf) 

April 11, 2018 John Cochrane
“The Old Lady, the Fly and the Horse: an Outline for Economic Reform”, flyer (pdf)

March 20, 2018 Clark Neily
"Incarceration Nation - How America Became the World's Leading Jailer", flyer (pdf)

February 28, 2018 Jacob T. Levy
"Black Liberty Matters", flyer (pdf)

View past lectures via the video archive