Volume I Issue 2

Special issue 2008

1. Pluralism and Heterodoxy: Introduction to the Special Issue

Andrew Mearman.
This paper introduces a special issue of the journal devoted to work presented at two recent conferences of the Association for Heterodox Economics (AHE). The AHE is an organisation which advocates and provides a forum for non-mainstream approaches to economics. Recent conferences have focused on pluralism. Pluralism is a variegated concept with multiple motivations and arguments in its favour. Such arguments tend to be ontological and epistemological, but may also be pedagogical. Pluralism has been advocated as a moniker preferable to heterodoxy which might be adopted by non-mainstream economists. However, it is problematic. The papers which comprise the remainder of this issue illustrate that point. The papers are discussed in turn and contrasted.
Section: Articles

2. Methodological Monism in Economics

Tamás Dusek.
The aim of the paper is to give an outline of the relation between general epistemology and the epistemology of economics. The epistemology of economics can be treated starting from the 'general epistemology of science' and from the subject of the investigation, namely the problems of economics itself. Starting from the general or subject-independent epistemology one can make an attempt to adapt to economics various methodological approaches which were practically created to take only the subject of physics or mathematics into consideration. The characteristic feature of this mentality is often methodological monism, a doctrine which implicitly or explicitly states the unity of epistemology in all disciplines. In methodological writings of economics, beside the supporters of some general epistemological viewpoints, there are serious critics of them on behalf of methodologists who start their researches based on economics. Methodological pluralism does not reject the importation of methodological ideas from other branches of knowledge in an aprioristic way. However, the uncritical adoption of the methodology of physical sciences or 'general' methodology leads to the realm of inadequacy and dogmatism. According to methodological pluralism, every research has to choose its methods and methodology conforming to the nature of its own problems. The theoretical consequences of methodological monism are not always obvious. Inappropriate methodology can lead to inappropriate theories […]
Section: Articles

3. Pluralism versus Heterodoxy in Economics and the Social Sciences

Randall Holcombe.
Pluralism is the concept that there is no single methodology that is always the correct one for discovering scientific truths, so multiple approaches and methodologies are required for a complete scientific understanding of a subject. Heterodoxy refers to those approaches to a subject that are outside of the generally accepted mainstream. While pluralism and heterodoxy are not necessarily inconsistent, heterodox economists tend to follow one particular methodology or school of thought rather than taking an eclectic approach to economic understanding, and heterodox economists often criticize approaches other than their own. Thus, in most cases, heterodox economists, by defending their own schools of thought and critiquing other approaches, are not pluralistic. The paper advocates a pluralistic approach to the social sciences over the more narrow approaches typically promoted by heterodox schools of thought.
Section: Articles

4. Plurality in Orthodox and Heterodox Economics

Sheila Dow.
Several observers have noted signs of a growing plurality in mainstream economics. At the same time there has been a growing emphasis in heterodox economics on commonality. The purpose of this paper is to explore the nature of plurality in economics in order to make sense of these characterisations, and to consider the issues raised by this plurality. The critical factor is to distinguish between plurality at the level of theory and evidence, at the level of methodological approach (plurality of methods), and at the meta-methodological level (a plurality of methodologies). First it is argued that, while there is plurality at the level of theory and even of type of evidence in orthodox economics, there continues to be monism in terms of methodological approach, and in attitude to methodological alternatives. In heterodox economics, the commonality of methodological approach does not go far before emerging pluralistically into a variety of approaches. Indeed there is, at the meta-methodological level, a range of arguments in heterodox economics for a plurality of methodologies, that is, a recognition that it is legitimate (if not inevitable) that there is more than one approach to economics.
Section: Articles

5. Classifying Heterodoxy

Rick Szostak.
This paper draws upon the scholarship of interdisciplinarity to argue that Economics, like all disciplines, should be open to a wide range of theories and methods, and the study of all relevant phenomena. A classification of the different methods and theory types used by scholars identifies key strengths and weaknesses of each. Different schools of heterodox [that is, non-neoclassical] economics, as well as neoclassical economics itself, emphasize different sets of theory and method. Each thus has a unique contribution to make to a holistic understanding of the economy. At present, different heterodox schools, like neoclassical economics itself, tend to act as if it were thought that their theory and method were superior. This paper urges a quite different attitude: different heterodox schools, as well as neoclassical economics, should be seen as complements rather than substitutes. That is, the insights of different schools of thought within Economics can and should be integrated just as disciplinary insights are integrated within interdisciplinary scholarship. The classification also identifies valuable theory types not presently embraced by any heterodox approach. Heterodoxy needs also to embrace the causal linkages between economic and diverse non-economic phenomena; the paper outlines a strategy for organizing the complex understandings that emerge from such a project. Some might recoil at the complexity of an academic enterprise that embraces such a wide range of […]
Section: Articles

6. From Fragmentation to Ontologically Reflexive Pluralism

Vinca Bigo ; Ioana Negru.
Considerable attention has recently been directed towards the analysis of pluralism in social science, not least in economics. Plurality is often taken as a mark of pluralism. But it is not the same thing, and often indicates little more than a disconnected fragmentation of contributions to a topic. We believe, in fact, that such fragmentation is rife in modern social theorising, and identify numerous causes. We subsequently examine the possibility of using an ontologically reflexive form of pluralism to achieve a greater degree of theoretical integration between various strands of thought than has hitherto been the case. We conclude by stressing the need to be aware of ontological presuppositions in social theorising. Our motivation is a concern with advancing a 'the pluralist project' in which, where feasible, an integration of ideas takes centre stage.
Section: Articles

7. Dialectics and the Austrian School: A Surprising Commonality in the Methodology of Heterodox Economics?

Andy Denis.
This paper is prompted by the concluding comments to a recent paper (Denis "Hypostatisation"), which suggests that the neoclassical use of the concept of equilibrium expresses a formal mode of thought. Heterodox tendencies from Marxian to Austrian and Post Keynesian economics, that paper continues, exemplify a dialectical mode of thought in their common rejection of neoclassical equilibrium theorising. Heterodox currents in economics are-particularly in terms of their analysis and policy prescription-often as divided amongst themselves as they are from the orthodoxy. Nevertheless, the present paper suggests, there may be something profound uniting these disparate heterodox trends: the adoption of a dialectical method. The paper draws on the work of Sciabarra ("Marx", "Total"), who argues that Marxian and Austrian economics are intellectual cousins sharing a methodological approach. He suggests that making process primary, which we might expect of Austrian economists, is the essence of dialectics, which we might identify with Marxism. If that is the case, then perhaps (a) we can only understand the method of neoclassical economics by contrasting it with a dialectical approach, and (b) we can explore methodological common ground between the various heterodox currents by examining their attitude, both implicit and explicit, to dialectics. Pluralism in economics requires, not merely toleration-though indeed it does require that-but mutual engagement, […]
Section: Articles