From Freakonomics to Political Economy

In: Historical Materialism
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  • 1 School of Oriental and African Studies
  • 2 University of Crete

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Abstract

In this response to the symposium on our two books we try to deal as fully as possible in the brief space available with most of the major issues raised by our distinguished commentators. Although at least three of them are in agreement with the main thrust of the arguments put forward in our books, they all raise important issues relating to methodology, the history of economic thought (including omissions), and a number of more specific issues. Our answer is based on the restatement of the chief purpose of our two books, describing the intellectual history of the evolution of economic science emphasising the role of the excision of the social and the historical from economic theorising in the transition from (classical) political economy to (neoclassical) economics, only for the two to be reunited through the vulgar form of economics imperialism following the monolithic dominance of neoclassical economics at the expense of pluralism after the Second World War. The importance of political economy for the future of economic science is vigorously argued for.

  • Backhouse Roger ‘Political Economy: History with the Politics Left Out?’ Historical Materialism 2012 20 3 24 38

  • Callinicos Alex ‘Book Review: From Political Economy to Economics Science and Society 2011 75 2 267 269

  • Fine Ben Lewis Paul ‘Addressing the Critical and the Real in Critical Realism’ Transforming Economics: Perspectives on the Critical Realist Project 2004 London Routledge

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  • Fine Ben ‘Debating Critical Realism in Economics’ Capital and Class 2006a 89 121 129

  • Fine Ben ‘Critical Realism and Heterodoxy’ 2006b mimeo, available at: <http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/7024/>

  • Fine Ben ‘Rethinking Critical Realism: Labour Markets or Capitalism?’ Capital and Class 2007 91 125 129

  • Fine Ben ‘The Economics of Identity and the Identity of Economics?’ Cambridge Journal of Economics 2009 33 2 175 191

  • Fine Ben & Lapavitsas Costas ‘Markets and Money in Social Theory: What Role for Economics?’ Economy and Society 2000 29 3 357 382

  • Fine Ben & Milonakis Dimitris From Economics Imperialism to Freakonomics: The Shifting Boundaries between Economics and Other Social Sciences 2009 London Routledge

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  • Fine Ben & Milonakis Dimitris ‘ “Useless but True”: Economic Crisis and the Peculiarities of Economic Science’ Historical Materialism 2011 19 2 3 31

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  • Fleetwood Steve ‘Rethinking Labour Markets: A Critical Realist-Socioeconomic Perspective’ Capital and Class 2006 89 59 89

  • Fleetwood Steve ‘ “From Political Economy to Economics” and Beyond’ Historical Materialism 2012 20 3 61 80

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  • Fullbrook Edward Ontology and Economics: Tony Lawson and His Critics 2009 London Routledge

  • Giddens Anthony Sociology: A Brief but Critical Introduction 1986 Basingstoke Palgrave Macmillan

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  • Hayek Friedrich ‘Scientism and the Study of Society’ The Counter Revolution in Science: Studies in the Abuse of Reason 1952 [1942–4] Glencoe, IL. The Free Press

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  • Hodgson Geoff ‘Marshall, Schumpeter and the Shifting Boundaries of Economics and Sociology’ 2007 mimeo, available at: <https://uhra.herts.ac.uk/dspace/bitstream/2299/2691/1/903017.pdf>

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  • Hodgson Geoff ‘Sickonomics: Diagnoses and Remedies’ Review of Social Economy 2011 69 3 357 376

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  • King John E. ‘Sixteen Questions for Fine and Milonakis’ Historical Materialism 2012 20 3 39 60

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  • Marx Karl Nicolaus Martin Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy 1973 [1939/41] Harmondsworth Penguin Books

  • McNally David ‘From Fetishism to “Shocked Disbelief”: Economics, Dialectics and Value Theory’ Historical Materialism 2012 20 3 9 23

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  • Milonakis Dimitris & Fine Ben From Political Economy to Economics: Method, the Social and the Historical in the Evolution of Economic Theory 2009 London Routledge

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  • Milonakis Dimitris & Fine Ben ‘Interrogating Sickonomics, from Diagnosis to Cure: A Response to Hodgson’ Review of Social Economy 2012 (forthcoming)

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  • Milonakis Dimitris & Meramveliotakis Giorgos ‘Homo Economicus and the Economics of Property Rights: History in Reverse Order’ Review of Radical Political Economics 2012 (forthcoming)

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  • Swingewood Alan A Short History of Sociological Thought 2000 Third Edition Basingstoke Palgrave Macmillan

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  • 4.

    See Milonakis and Fine 2009, pp. 9–10.

  • 5.

    McNally 2012, pp. 10–11, King 2012, p. 40, and Fleetwood 2012, pp. 61–2.

  • 6.

    Backhouse 2012.

  • 7.

    Backhouse 2012, p. 25.

  • 9.

    Milonakis and Fine 2009, p. xiii, contra King 2012, p. 39; see also Hodgson 2011, p. 358.

  • 10.

    Milonakis and Fine 2009, pp. 1, 2, 4, 9.

  • 11.

    Fine and Milonakis 2009, p. 1.

  • 12.

    Backhouse 2012, p. 24.

  • 13.

    King 2012, pp. 40–1.

  • 14.

    King 2012, p. 41.

  • 15.

    Backhouse 2012, p. 29.

  • 16.

    King 2012, p. 44.

  • 17.

    King 2012, pp. 47–9. Callinicos 2011 in his review of our first book makes a similar point.

  • 18.

    See Fine and Milonakis 2009, pp. 36–42, and below.

  • 19.

    See also Fine 2009.

  • 20.

    King 2012, pp. 55–6.

  • 22.

    Backhouse 2012, p. 34.

  • 24.

    See also Hodgson 2011, p. 373.

  • 25.

    Fine and Milonakis 2009, p. 154.

  • 26.

    Marx 1972, p. 5.

  • 29.

    Fleetwood 2012, p. 68.

  • 30.

    Hayek 1942, 1943 and 1944, reprinted as Hayek 1952.

  • 31.

    Milonakis and Fine 2009, p. 260.

  • 32.

    King 2012, pp. 45–6, and Milonakis and Fine 2009, pp. 230–6.

  • 33.

    Milonakis and Fine 2009, p. 230. Two missing commas, indicated by ‘[,]’, a slip on our part, is the cause of the misunderstanding with King on Ricardo’s method. Thus the proper quote should be: ‘Indeed, Ricardo’s deductivism[,] and positivism[,] are taken to the limit in mainstream economics, as with Friedman’s (1953) instrumentalist methodology’ (Milonakis and Fine 2009, p. 69). As far as Ricardo’s method is concerned, we have made our position abundantly clear on many occasions: we consider him as one of the first champions of pure deductivism.

  • 34.

    See above and Milonakis and Fine 2009, p. 231.

  • 35.

    See Milonakis and Fine 2009, pp. 234–5.

  • 36.

    Lawson 2003, p. 145.

  • 37.

    Marx 1973, p. 100. Analysis is opposed to what Marx calls synthesis which describes the opposite mental route, going from abstract categories to more concrete ones, which Marx (Marx 1973, p. 101) called ‘the scientifically correct method’. We hope this discussion answers the accusation that in our books we ‘give the impression that right lay on the side of the inductivists’ (Callinicos 2011, p. 268) and that the latter underplays the role of theory in economic analysis. We fully agree with the latter point, and it was certainly not our intention to side with the inductivists but to show the need to transcend its distinction with deductivism in the ways suggested here.

  • 38.

    Fleetwood 2012, pp. 72–5.

  • 39.

    King 2012, p. 48.

  • 40.

    King 2012, pp. 41–2.

  • 41.

    Milonakis and Fine 2009, p. 93.

  • 42.

    Giddens 1986.

  • 43.

     Swingewood 2000.

  • 44.

    Milonakis and Fine 2009, pp. 216–17.

  • 45.

    See Fine and Milonakis 2009, pp. 88–9.

  • 46.

    Hodgson 2007.

  • 47.

    See the debate between Zelizer 1994 and 2000, and Fine and Lapavitsas 2000.

  • 48.

    See Fine 2004, 2006a and 2007, the last not least in debate with Fleetwood 2006. On critical realism and heterodox economics, see Fine 2006b commenting on Lawson 2006.

  • 49.

    See Fine and Milonakis 2011.

  • 50.

    See also Fine and Milonakis 2011.

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