Methodology, ideology

From Tim Barker’s review of Johanna Bockman’s Markets in the Name of Socialism:
The Left-Wing Origins of Neoliberalism
, which is currently waiting in my to-read line:

Her real focus is the relationship between socialist politics and neoclassical economics. As her intellectual and political history deftly illustrates, there is no inherent affinity between neoclassical theory, market institutions, and capitalism. (Here she offers a corrective to Marxists like Harvey, whose key text on neoliberalism conflates it with neoclassical economics.) The pioneers of neoclassical economics recognized the relevance of socialism to their project and assumed that one scientific vocabulary could therefore apply to socialism and capitalism.

The conflation of an ideology with the pervasive methodology of economic theory is a disheartening one. It bleeds into the quandaries of teaching introductory economics, into the otherwise valuable methodological critiques and innovations within economics, the characterization of economists as evil.

I submit that (i) we have two words that are slippery to define and both start with “neo-“, and (ii) “economics” is sometimes taken to connote “business” and soulless bean-counting, and so we are stuck with a misconception that I very much wish we could shake.

This conflation is not acceptable to me and I don’t see any easy way to battle it. I do think it argues in favor of an unapologetically wonky Econ 101 that explicitly includes more fundamental methodology, whatever the cost. We must teach our methodology properly if we want it to be interpreted properly.

One thought on “Methodology, ideology

  1. Pingback: Rehabilitating the economist | Jim Campbell

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