Mana vol.7 no.1 Rio de Janeiro Apr. 2001
O CAMPO DOS ECONOMISTAS FRANCESES NO FIM DOS ANOS 90: LUTAS DE FRONTEIRA, AUTONOMIA E ESTRUTURA
Na França, durante os anos 90, diferentes índices atestam a "influência" cada vez maior dos economistas. Uma revista de economia, Le Nouvel Économiste, criou, em 1993, um prêmio para recompensar os melhores economistas franceses do ano. Durante a crise social de 1995, os economistas empenharam-se fortemente em lutas em torno das políticas econômica e social e do Plano Juppé, em particular na redação de diferentes petições de apoio ao governo ou aos grevistas, ou tomando posição, de modo crítico, sobre a política econômica implementada (Duval et alii 1998). Em várias ocasiões, manifestos de economistas foram lançados para apoiar esta ou aquela orientação de política econômica, e os economistas viram, incessantemente, seu papel afirmar-se no debate público, quando menos através da proliferação de crônicas econômicas na imprensa ou no rádio. Em 1997, foi criado pelo primeiro-ministro, por sugestão de um economista de sua equipe, um Conseil d’Analyse Économique baseado no modelo do Council of Economic Advisers americano (Coats 1993:611-615), e os mais renomados economistas franceses foram convidados a tomar parte nele. Em junho de 2000, um prêmio para o melhor economista com menos de 40 anos foi pela primeira vez concedido pelo Cercle des Économistes e pelo jornal Le Monde.
Durante todo esse período, os debates sobre a "profissão" ganharam visibilidade — recentemente, o lançamento, por um grupo de estudantes, de uma petição hostil aos excessos de formalização no ensino foi objeto de um longo artigo no Le Monde. Tal envolvimento e influência crescentes poderiam ser comprovados com vários outros indícios, que vão da escalada da economia no ensino das escolas de elite até a "composição por economistas" das equipes e comissões ministeriais, passando pelas transformações na escolaridade dos dirigentes de empresas e de altos funcionários e, de modo mais abrangente, no peso da escolarização em ciência econômica (cf. Lebaron 1996). Tudo isso incita a uma interrogação acerca da natureza dessa "profissão", sua organização social, o caráter das questões que a perpassam. Longe de constituir um simples caso exemplar para uma sociologia geral das profissões, o universo dos economistas suscita um certo número de problemas teóricos e metodológicos que, certamente, se apresentam em graus variados no estudo de toda "profissão", mas que aqui são "radicalizados".
Muitas incompreensões e erros no uso dos termos "ciência econômica" e "economistas" estão, com efeito, ligados ao fato de estes constituírem sempre objeto de disputa, e não "identidades profissionais" completamente formalizadas e estabilizadas. O mundo dos economistas, na França como em outros lugares, é muito mais diferenciado e heterogêneo do que freqüentemente se pensa, inclusive nos trabalhos que versam sobre a "profissionalização" dos economistas (Coats 1993). A noção de campo, por sua vez, permite evitar as visões cristalizadas do que é um "economista" e as definições a priori daquilo que é a "profissão" de economista, suas normas específicas, seus hábitos etc.1. As definições de economista e de ciência econômica são objeto de disputa no seio de um espaço social particular, que tem suas leis, sua lógica, suas relações de força e suas oposições próprias. Quais são as propriedades desse universo social específico? Em particular, como são definidas e mantidas suas fronteiras? Qual é seu grau de autonomia e em relação a que universos? Qual é a estrutura interna desse campo? Tentarei aqui responder a estas questões, isto é, caracterizar o lugar das lutas de classificação, determinar a natureza e o grau de autonomia desse campo, e mostrar sua estrutura interna.
As lutas de fronteira
A questão das fronteiras do campo…
ORIGENS E PERTINÊNCIA DA MATEMATIZAÇÃO DA TEORIA ECONÔMICA Iara Vigo de Lima
Resumo: Nossa intenção aqui é sondar, seguindo uma perspectiva genealógica, a busca do método na filosofia e na ciência e como esta culminou nas origens e desenvolvimentos da economia matemática. Procuramos resgatar a gênese da concepção moderna de ciência e sua ascendência sobre a mathematization da teoria econômica, com o intuito de apresentar os principais questionamentos acerca da hegemonia da abordagem matemática em nossa disciplina.
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Instituto Superior de Economia e Gestão
Universidade Técnica de Lisboa
História do Pensamento Económico
Licenciatura em Economia
Ano lectivo 2004/2005 – 2º semestre
José Luís Cardoso (responsável)
• Orientações bibliográficas
• Orientações pedagógicas
• Avaliação de conhecimentos
1. Introdução [2 aulas]
1.1. Apresentação do programa da disciplina.
1.2. Objecto e método da história do pensamento económico.
1.3. Etapas na história do pensamento económico. Esboço de periodização.
2. O pensamento económico pré-clássico: mercantilismo e fisiocracia [3 aulas]
2.1. O mercantilismo.
2.2. Críticas ao mercantilismo e génese da economia liberal
2.3. A fisiocracia.
3. Adam Smith e a génese da ciência económica [3 aulas]
3.1. Da Teoria dos Sentimentos Morais à Riqueza das Nações.
3.2. Principais contribuições para a formação da ciência da economia política.
4. A escola clássica [5 aulas]
4.1. Lei da população e lei dos mercados: as contribuições de Malthus e Say.
4.2. O sistema económico de David Ricardo.
4.3. O pensamento económico e social de John Stuart Mill.
4.4. Karl Marx e a crítica da economia política.
5. O marginalismo e a economia neoclássica [8 aulas]
5.1. Antecedentes e percursores da "revolução" marginalista.
5.2. W. Stanley Jevons e a teoria da utilidade e da troca.
5.3. Carl Menger e a escola austríaca.
5.4. Léon Walras e a teoria do equilíbrio geral.
5.5. Alfred Marshall e a sustentação da economia neoclássica.
5.6. Principais contribuições analíticas da economia neoclássica.
6. A macroeconomia keynesiana e a síntese neoclássica [8 aulas]
6.1. Enquadramento geral: a ciência económica na década de 1930.
6.2. O conteúdo analítico da Teoria Geral de J. Maynard Keynes.
6.3. Filosofia social e política económica na obra de J. Maynard Keynes.
6.4. O modelo IS-LM e a síntese neoclássica.
7. Teorias e políticas económicas na segunda metade do século XX [7 aulas]
7.1. Monetarismo, expectativas racionais e nova economia clássica.
7.2. Institucionalismo e neo-institucionalismo.
7.3. Escolha pública e acção colectiva.
7.4. Outras correntes de pensamento.
1. Bibliografia obrigatória
Cada aluno deverá adoptar um livro-texto de leitura obrigatória, da sua livre escolha entre as obras a seguir indicadas, tendo em atenção o nível de aprofundamento de matérias que decida fazer.
a) Nível elementar
Backhouse, Roger, The Penguin History of Economics. London: Penguin Books, 2002.
Ekelund, Robert B. and Hébert, Robert F., A History of Economic Theory and Method. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1997 (4th edition).
Rima, Ingrid, Development of Economic Analysis. London and New York: Routledge, 2001 (6th edition).
2. Bibliografia recomendada
Para cada tópico do programa serão indicados nas aulas livros e artigos de leitura
facultativa, destinados a aprofundamentos temáticos específicos.
Para uma visão enciclopédica de autores e matérias até meados do século XX a obra de referência mais importante é:
Schumpeter, Joseph A., History of Economic Analysis. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1954 [novo reprint: Routledge, 1994].
Para a um acompanhamento integral, de nível avançado, sobre as principais escolas, autores e temas na história do pensamento económico, deverá consultar-se:
Samuels, Warren J., Biddle, Jeff E. and Davis, John B., A Companion to the History of Economic Thought. Oxford: Blackwell, 2003.
Para o estudo do pensamento económico contemporâneo (2ª metade do século XX) será aconselhável a consulta das seguintes obras:
Beaud, Michel e Dostaler, Gilles, O Pensamento Económico de Keynes aos Nossos Dias: Súmula Histórica e Dicionário dos Principais Autores.
Porto: Edições Afrontamento, 2000.
McCarty, Marilu Hurt, Como os Grandes Economistas Deram Forma ao Pensamento Moderno. Os Laureados do Nobel de Economia. Lisboa: Prefácio, 2001
Snowdown, Brian, Vane, Howard and Wynarczyk, Peter, A Modern Guide to Macroeconomics. An Introduction to Competing Schools of Thought. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 1994.
Para a obtenção de informação bio-bibliográfica sintética sobre os principais autores analisados ao longo do programa, poderão ser consultadas as seguintes obras de referência:
Blaug, Mark, Great Economists Before Keynes. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 1997.
Blaug, Mark, Great Economists Since Keynes. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 1998.
Eatwell, John, Murray Milgate and Peter Newman (eds.), The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics. London: Macmillan, 1987 (4 Vols).
Neves, J. César, Nobel da Economia. As Três Primeiras Décadas. Cascais: Principia, 1998.
3. Outras fontes de pesquisa
Para um acompanhamento actualizado da produção de estudos e ensaios de maior
relevância científica na área da história do pensamento económico, poderão ser
consultadas as seguintes revistas especializadas:
The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought (EJHET)
History of Political Economy (HOPE)
Journal of the History of Economic Thought (JHET)
Para a obtenção de informações sobre cursos, associações, actividades científicas,
conferências e seminários na área da história do pensamento, os sites mais ricos em informação e com maior diversidade de links são:
O acesso a textos originais dos principais autores tratados no programa – assim como de muitos outros autores que serão apenas nomeados – está disponível em diversos sites, entre os quais se destacam os seguintes:
Para obtenção de gravuras e fotografias dos principais economistas de todos os
Para o acompanhamento das matérias leccionadas nas aulas são disponibilizados na página web da disciplina guiões de aula compostos pelos seguintes elementos:
Tópicos do programa e seu desenvolvimento esquemático.
Estes tópicos permitirão formar uma visão global acerca do conteúdo programático da disciplina e das matérias sobre as quais deve incidir a aquisição de conhecimentos.
Excertos ilustrativos de autores estudados no programa
Estes excertos visam sensibilizar os alunos para a importância do contacto com as obras originais de referência básica no processo histórico de formação da ciência económica. Os excertos terão um papel central na organização da aula e na apresentação das matérias.
Estas recomendações incluirão o(s) capítulo(s) do(s) livro(s)-texto de leitura obrigatória e ainda outras referências de leitura facultativa.
Lista de palavras-chave e conceitos que sintetizam os tópicos mais relevantes tratados nas aulas.
Textos disponíveis para a realização de relatórios de leitura
Os alunos que optem pela avaliação de conhecimentos através do regime do
PADEF, terão que efectuar 2 trabalhos sobre os textos indicados nestes guiões de aula, dos capítulos 3 a 7. Todos os aspectos referentes à escolha dos textos e preparação dos relatórios serão esclarecidos no decurso das aulas.
Avaliação de conhecimentos
A avaliação de conhecimentos no regime PADEF constará de:
a) Teste escrito sem consulta, sobre toda a matéria do programa [ponderação: 50%; nota mínima: 7 valores]
Dois trabalhos escritos individuais, cada um com a dimensão aproximada de 2000 palavras, sobre os textos indicados no final dos guiões das aulas dos capítulos 3 a 7, ou que entretanto venham a ser indicados pelos docentes da disciplina. Um dos trabalhos será sobre um texto relativo a matérias dos capítulos 3, 4 ou 5. O outro trabalho será sobre um texto relativo a matérias dos capítulos 6 ou 7 [ponderação: 2 x 25%].
David K Round, Martin Shanahan. Journal of Economic Education. Washington: Summer 2005.Vol.36, Iss. 3; pg. 203, 2 pgs
Full Text (545 words)
Copyright HELDREF PUBLICATIONS Summer 2005
From July 13 to 16, 2004, colleagues from around the world gathered at the University of South Australia to present and discuss their research on economic education. The conference, entitled "What We Teach and How We Teach It: Perspectives on Economics from around the Globe," was presented by The Centre for Regulation and Market Analysis and sponsored by the Journal of Economic Education and the University of South Australia. Participants came from Australia, Canada, China, Greece, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The content and issues covered in the conference were equally diverse, ranging from how to use mobile phones to conduct class experiments in large lectures to presenting profiles of undergraduate economics curricula in the Philippines. Common themes that emerged from the conference included concern with the standard of economics students and their final degrees; questions about the content of economics and, in particular, the content of microeconomics; the lack of a historical dimension in the education of most economists; and consequences for teaching economics in the face of declining university resources. The papers were certainly not dismal, with presenters also examining the results of tests of economic literacy, Web-based teaching, employer attitudes to undergraduate economics, and using literature to teach economics. The seven keynote presentations contained in this issue were given by Avinash Dixit, Theodore C. Bergstrom, William H. Greene, Edward K. Y. Chen, John D. Hey, David Colander, and Kim Sosin. William Walstad and Michael Watts provided a comprehensive and insightful wrap-up of the conference, "’Closing’ an International Economic Education Conference in OZ." Additional information about the conference, the participants, and the presented papers can be accessed at the conference Web site at <http://business2.unisa.edu.au/ecoed/ecoed.htm>.
Many people contributed to the success of the conference. We would particularly like to thank fellow members of the organizing committee, William Becker and John Siegfried. In addition, Pro-Vice Chancellors Ian Davey, Kevin O’Brien, and Gerry Griffin, and Head of the School of International Business, Associate Professor Geoff Page provided invaluable financial support and needed institutional assistance from the University of South Australia. At the University of South Australia, thanks are also due to Vice-Chancellor and President of the University, Professor Denise Bradley for her introduction and welcome to the public lecture and for her welcome of the Honorable Deputy Premier and State Treasurer, Kevin Foley, who officially opened the conference. Ms. Louise Sylvan, deputy chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, also gave a fine after-dinner speech in which she talked about what sort of education economists really need, a topic of considerable interest.
This conference would have not been possible without the behind-the-scenes work of Jan Holmes, Chloe Holmes, Melissa Gibbs, Belinda Spagnoletti, Vanessa Lowe, Peter Rossini, Cindy Schofield, Jeremy Tustin, John Wilson, and the late Mark Hentschke, all of whom made invaluable contributions. Hardy Wines, Pearson, and McGraw-Hill must also be thanked for their support. Finally, we would like to thank all the participants who responded so well and with good humor to our requests to get their papers in on time.
David K. Round is a professor of economics at the University of South Australia (e-mail: David. Round@unisa.edu.au). Martin Shanahan is an associate professor of economics at the University of South Australia.
Court Jesters, House Gadflies and Economic Critics
Colander, David. The Lost Art of Economics: Essays on Economics and the Economics Profession. Cheltenham UK: Edward Elgar, 2001. Pp. x+203. ISBN 1-84064-694-2
Thou should’st not have been old till thou hadst been wise(The Fool to King Lear)
Cognition: The Black Box of Economics
W. Brian Arthur
Chapter 3 in The Complexity Vision and the Teaching of Economics,
David Colander, ed., Edward Elgar Publishing, Northampton, Mass, 2000.
Attention and the art of scientific publishing
Arjo Klamer and Hendrik P. van Dalen
Journal of Economic Methodology 9:3, 289±315 2002
On the notion of mainstream economics: a collective discussion about Colander’s The death of neoclassical economics
Giovanni Bono (PhD student in Economia Politica, Università Statale di Milano)
Lorenzo Cassi (PhD student in Economia Politica, Università di Ancona)
Giulia Felice (PhD student in Economia Politica, Università di Pavia)
Stefano Lucarelli (PhD student in Economia Politica, Università di Ancona)
Ricardo Mamede (PhD student in Economics, Università Bocconi)
Andrea Morrison* (PhD student in Istituzioni, ambiente e politiche per lo sviluppo economico, Università di Roma 3)
Alessandra Tucci (PhD student in Scienze Economiche, Università Statale di Milano)
Lorenzo Zirulia (PhD student in Economics, Università Bocconi)
The future of economics: the appropriately educated in pursuit of the knowable
Cambridge Journal of Economics 2005, 29, 927–941
Reorienting Economics. (Book Review) Morteza Ardebili.
Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2005 Routledge
Reorienting Economics. By Tony Lawson. London and New York: Routledge, 2003. Pp. xxvi, 383, ISBN 0-415-25336-5, $35.00.
It is over a decade now that Tony Lawson has undertaken the project of reorienting the discipline of economics. In this direction and from a critical realist (CR) perspective, he has made significant contributions to social sciences generally, and to the discipline of economics specifically. Lawson’s Reorienting Economics is a synthesis, clarification, and constructive extension of his previous contributions. Lawson’s writing style, his repeated emphases of the key points and arguments, and his significant insights make the book engaging and readable. For these reasons, I highly recommend this book to graduate students and scholars in the disciplines of the social sciences.
Before giving an overview of the book, I should present an important general argument that is presupposed by Lawson’s particular argument. The general argument is about the significant role that the conception of reality (i.e. ontology) plays in the process of production of knowledge in general, and Lawson’s particular argument is about his contention that the discipline of economics should adopt the critical realist ontology as the foundation of its scientific practice. It is important to mention at the outset that the two arguments (i.e. the general and the particular) have an asymmetrical and logically necessary relation. The relation is logically necessary, because acceptance of the proposition, that the discipline of economics should adopt the critical realist ontology, logically requires a prior realization that a philosophical ontology indeed undergirds any scientific practice. The logical relation between the two arguments is, at the same time, asymmetrical, because the realization that scientific practice is impossible without an ontological commitment does not necessarily entail that the critical realist social ontology, as Lawson recommends, must be accepted–although there is sufficient evidence that the critical realist social ontology is the most suitable for social sciences. In fact this distinction and clarification is necessary, because some of Lawson’s critics, conflating the two arguments, have seemingly assumed that by rejecting Lawson’s particular argument they have also rejected the general one. This assumption cannot be accepted. For, given the logical priority of the general argument to the particular one, no critic’s attempt at rejecting the critical realist ontology can be accepted until the critic has accepted the general argument that scientific practice is indeed impossible without an ontological commitment. If this is accepted, then a productive engagement between the critical realists and their critics would be possible only if the critics enter the critical engagement with an alternative social ontology–the intellectual illumination would be the result of the clash between the two conceptions of social reality and their consequences for scientific practice of production of knowledge. Now, if the critics do not accept the general argument, then they are compelled to put forth an argument as to how a science can be intelligibly practiced without an ontological commitment. To the best of my knowledge the latter argument has not been made by the critics. Now I turn to the general argument.
The general argument turns on the insight that the scientific practice of production of knowledge is unavoidably based upon certain ontology even though those engaged in such practice are not conscious of it. As Rom Harre has stated: "To use the concept of a thing it is necessary to assume the existence of one’s ‘things’ even when they are not being observed or detected" (1972: 20). This means, given that members of the scientific community, regardless of their ontological commitment, believe (indeed must believe) that what they study is "real" (it would be absurd to claim otherwise), it becomes incumbent upon them to clearly describe the ontology upon which their research program is based. The fact, moreover, that both the social and the natural scientific ontologies presuppose a philosophical ontology, indicates that the scientific practice of production of knowledge has an indispensable philosophical dimension. A denial of the philosophical dimension of science will not cause this dimension to evaporate into thin air. As Andrew Collier has aptly stated: "… the alternative to philosophy is not no philosophy, but bad philosophy" (1994: 16).
Actually, social ontology does much more than underlaboring in social science. Indeed, social ontology, located at the foundation of the social scientific practice, broadly delimits (1) every aspect of the practice of production of knowledge of objects of study. Since it is the nature of the object of study that determines the research methods employed to study it, and since it is the social ontology (within which the objects of study of the social sciences are embedded) that determines what we consider the nature of the object of study to be, it follows that our social ontology broadly sets the boundary for the types of research methods selected as well. Thus, while one conception of reality may predispose us to take only the perceivable properties of an object of study as an indication of its existence, another conception may orient us to take an object of study as real even if it is not directly perceived or detected (e.g. the magnetic field, social structures, human intelligence, etc.). One important implication of this for scientific theorizing is that what we take the social reality to be–that is, our social ontology–elimits the manner in which we theorize the objects of study. And now if we add to this the fact that our observations are always theory-dependent, it becomes clear that our theories as well as our scientific observations are ultimately ontology-dependent.
It should become clear, given what I have said so far, that the scientific practice of production of knowledge of reality has an internal conceptual structure. Within this structure, the various components of the structure (i.e. ontology, epistemology, theory, and research methods) are not only internally related, but they are also stratified and differentiated in terms of the specific roles they play in the process of production of knowledge. Indeed, given the foundational role of social ontology within the conceptual structure of scientific practice in social science, various research programs, schools of thought, paradigms, etc. could be classified in terms of the ontlogy that they presuppose. Currently, in the social sciences, three broadly conceived paradigms could be recognized–paradigms within which social sciences are practiced: positivism, hermeneutics, and critical realism. Each of these paradigms is based upon its own philosophical ontology which grounds its own social ontology, and each has its own criterion of "being" or "reality" of entities or objects of study. For positivism: to be is to be perceived, for hermeneutics: to be is to be meaningful, and for critical realism: to be is to be able to do.
While the three paradigms have the same structure and the same structural components, what distinguish them from one another and, hence, what distinguishes their specific mode of theorizing, their specific pattern of explaining the social phenomena, their specific logic for constructing research techniques, etc., are the differences that exist among their ontologies. A significant implication emanating from the recognition of the structure of scientific paradigms is that, in every paradigm, the specifically defined components of the structure must be consistent with its ontology. For example, if the shared social ontology of a research community is constituted by atomistic individuals and atomistic groups with no necessary/internal relations among them, then it would be inconsistent to represent these relations that have been presumed not to exist in reality, as logical relations in theory. For scientific theory to do its job properly, the logic employed in thought must represent the logic one assumes to exist in social reality (i.e. the onto-logic). Therefore, the established peer evaluation of the concrete research projects in terms of the propriety of the manner in which objects of study are theorized, research methods constructed, and data selected, must be expanded to also include the important task of examining the internal consistency of the entire process of production of knowledge. Although finding a scientific paradigm internally consistent does not necessarily mean that knowledge produced within it is valid. What it rather means is that if upon examination a paradigm is found to be internally inconsistent, the paradigm in question must no longer be considered a legitimate conceptual framework for scientific production of knowledge. The point being made here is that genuine evaluation of research projects will not be possible unless the determining role of ontology within the conceptual structure of scientific practice is taken into account.
Thus, given the significant role of ontology within the conceptual structure of scientific practice, the description of the social ontology in every research program becomes an important obligation of every scientific community. If this is not done by the scientific community in question (e.g. the mainstream economists), then, the reason/justification for the manner in which the objects of study are theorized, explanations rendered, data selected, etc., would remain ungrounded and, hence, becomes an exercise in conventionalism at best. Thus, Lawson’s suggestion, in the book under review here, that the discipline of economics must take an ontological turn is fully understandable and justified (p. xix).
Lawson’s Reorienting Economics consists of four parts that include ten essays (chapters), three of which have been previously published. Part I, "The Current Orientation of the Discipline and the Proposed Alternative," contains three chapters. In the first chapter, Lawson argues that the discipline of economics "is not in too healthy a condition." The main reason for this, Lawson contends, is that there is "a mismatch" in modern economics between "its method of analysis and the nature of the material it seeks to illuminate." In other words, the mismatch is between the method of "mathematical-deductivist modelling" of modern economics and "the social world in which we actually live" (p. xxiii). To correct this situation, that is, to enable the discipline to realize its potentially successful explanatory power, Lawson argues, the modern discipline of economics must turn away from its formalistic method and adopt critical realism as its social ontology. To arrive at this social ontology, in the second chapter, Lawson starts with the generalized aspects of human actions and raises a transcendental question about the conditions of possibility of these actions. In other words, Lawson asks, how social reality must be constituted in order for the generalized human practices to be possible. Starting with "the intelligibility principle" which states that "all actual practices, whether or not scientific, and whether or not successful on their own terms, have explanations" (p. 33), Lawson answers his transcendental question of constitution of social reality with a cogent transcendental argument–an argument that clearly describes the nature of social reality from a critical realist perspective. The third chapter of the book provides an extensive review of the critical realist social ontology as a more suitable foundation for the discipline of economics and its theorization.
Since, according to Lawson, critical realists take the social systems to be inherently structured, stratified, and open and, hence, the possibility of spontaneous closure in social sciences to be generally absent, the reliance on methods of mathematical-deductivist theorizing of social phenomena, which presupposes a closed system, is bound not to generate viable explanations. This is in addition to the fact that, in every act of mathematical-deductivist theorizing, economists must ignore, contradict, and violate their own atomistic social ontology with which they start their research project, by constructing in their theoretical abstraction a totally different society whose atomistic state of affairs are presumed to be connected by a logical scaffold. Thus, the domain of the theoretical abstraction of the modern mainstream economics represents a fictitious world that does not resemble the one that its practitioners begin their research with, let alone illuminating the one within which the structures of social relations of production, distribution, and consumption are empirically manifested through unequal distribution of wealth, power, and prestige.
The argument for critical realist ontology as a more suitable foundation for the discipline of economics is followed by Part II, "Possibilities for Economics," wherein the distinct role of the critical realist social ontology in explaining economic phenomena, in examining the suitability of evolutionary metaphor in economic theorizing, and in identifying the discipline of economics as a distinct social science are explored.
In Part III, "Heterodox Traditions of Modern Economics," Lawson discusses three heterodox schools of thought (i.e. post Keynesian, institutional, and feminist) in three separate chapters. Lawson defines the term "heterodox," generically, as qualifying "those who systematically oppose a set of doctrines currently held to be true and in some sense fundamental by majority or dominant opinion within a particular community" (p. 165). Specifically, Lawson argues that heterodox economists (post Keynesianism in Chapter 7) reject the "fundamental feature" of the orthodox or mainstream economics that the models of "mathematical-deductivist modelling are essential to all serious theorizing" and in doing so, Lawson argues, heterodox economists, "implicitly at least, are taking a view on the nature of social reality" (p. 165). Lawson contends that Keynes himself is involved with ontological considerations and his "ontological commitments are indeed sufficiently similar to those underpinning modern post Keynesianism" and similar to those "systematized within critical realism" (p. 173).
The institutionalist and feminist heterodox schools of thought, according to Lawson, reject the mainstream project for its a priori and "ungrounded universalising" approach. Lawson examines Thorstein Veblen’s theory of institutional economics in the second chapter of Part III. While Lawson clearly distinguishes his critical realist perspective from Veblen’s institutionalism, he nonetheless contends that "in referring to evolutionary method and science, Veblen, in effect, is advancing a thesis that is largely ontological in nature" (p. 185). This ontology specifically, Lawson argues, "is one of non-teleological causal processes, of cumulative causal sequence" (p. 187).
Lawson, in Chapter 9, provides a detailed review and analysis of the anti-universalizing position of the feminist theorizing and the standpoint epistemology that figures prominently in the former. Lawson correctly suggests that feminist theorizing must be as reflexive about its ontology as it is about its epistemology. In fact, adoption of the critical realist social ontology as the foundation of feminist theorizing would accomplish at least three tasks for the feminist theorists: (1) it would enable them to retain the epistemological relativism of their insight that peoples’ perspectives on society derive from their enduring experiences that are generated by the positions that they occupy in social structures; (2) it prevents their epistemological relativism from slipping into ontological relativism (and, hence, into judgmental relativism) by providing a relational/structural conception of social totality which would explain why certain experiences are generated by certain positions in social structures in the first place; and, (3) it would enable them, by virtue of knowledge generated in #2, to advance their project of emancipation through structural elaboration or transformation.
Finally, the last part of the book, Part IV, consists of one chapter, "An Explanation of the Mathematising Tendency in Modern Mainstream Economics." Lawson starts the chapter with a question: If the modern mathematizing project of modern mainstream economics has not been successful in shedding light on the world in which we live, how can we account for its "rise, and continuing, dominance" of the discipline? To suggest an explanation, Lawson undertakes the development of his earlier thesis. In this thesis, Lawson states that the high esteem, in which the Western culture holds the idea of science and its rigorous practice, is at least partially responsible for the domination of the modern economics by mathematics. In other words, "it is this culturally based idea of science (or serious study) as necessitating mathematics that drives the mathematising project on in economics" (p. 250). Employing the Darwinian evolutionary model and the natural selection metaphor, with certain insightful changes in the prevailing use of this metaphor, Lawson provides some understanding as to "why the cultural perception of the ubiquitous role of mathematics came to play a bigger role in influencing developments within the economics academy at a certain point in twentieth century" (p. 273).
In so far as my reading of Reorienting Economics is concerned, Lawson has clearly demonstrated that the mathematical-deductivist theorizing of the modern mainstream project makes the project internally contradictory and, hence, unacceptable. This is the case because such theorizing contradicts the methodological individualist social ontology that is presupposed by the practitioners of the mainstream project. Furthermore, if the general argument about the determining role of social ontology within the structure of scientific practice, as presented above, is correct, then, it would seem, the reason for the discipline of economics being in such a disarray, "especially [for] its lack of empirical/explanatory successes combined with the widespread experience of theory/practice inconsistencies" (p. 32), is not merely because of its mathematical-deductivist mode of theorizing. It is, more foundationally, because of its false social ontology. Now, if such a conception of reality is false, that is, false in the sense that it does not represent the social reality the way in which it is actually constituted, then the discipline that is founded upon it will not be able to exhibit a genuine explanatory power, no matter what mode of theorizing is adopted–mathematical-deductivist or otherwise. Thus, before opting for a mode of theorizing or thinking about selecting research methods, given the foundational role that social ontology plays in scientific practice of production of knowledge, it is imperative that the discipline of economics gets it social ontology right. This is why, I believe, Lawson’s argument, that the discipline of economics should adopt a critical realist social ontology, is a forceful argument.
Kansas City Kansas Community College and
University of Missouri-Kansas City
Collier, A. (1994) Critical Realism." An Introduction to Roy Bhaskar’s Philosophy, London and New York: Verso.
Harre, R. (1972) The Philosophies of Science, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
(1) In this essay the word "determine" is always used in a broad and categorial sense. For example, the statement that it is the nature of the object of study that determines the research methods employed to study it, means that the totality of methods suitable for studying a given object of study are assumed to fall within a category whose boundaries are determined by the nature of object of study in question. Of course the concepts "category" and "nature" here are theoretical concepts and are ultimately grounded in our conception of reality.
Named Works: Reorienting Economics (Book)