Volume XIII Issue 2

Spring - Autumn 2020


1. Economic essays (part two): toward a realistic concept of choice

Frederic Jennings Jr..
The previous three essays (Jennings 2019) and the first in this second series were originally drafted 30 years ago in 1988-1990. They aimed to present a more realistic concept of choice in economics. These four essays serve as a precursor to my subsequent work. The first three essays (Jennings 2019) addressed these issues. Essay One started with the notion of ‘opportunity cost’ and the ‘problem of invisibility’ as a case for open discourse. The second essay introduced two metaphors for economic behavior: the ‘neighborhood store’ and the ‘chessboard’, to raise issues of incomplete knowledge, time and social process. The third essay focused on interdependence: a ‘transport’ metaphor shows a balance of substitution and complementarity, opening institutional questions of competition and cooperation. These three essays set up an ethical theory of planning horizons. The fourth essay outlines a theory of ethics based on rational bounds. The endless interdependence of choice makes rational limits essential; surprises show the border of prior awareness of radiant outcomes. Our ethics align private with social incentives; wherever relations show affinity, competition is self-defeating: cooperation is more efficient, especially in education. Learning extends horizons, suggesting the failure of rivalrous systems. How incentives shape planning horizons is central to social well-being. The fifth essay develops this view with regard to institutions. Where substitution is […]

2. The rationality principle as a universal grammar of economic explanations

Cheng Li.
A universal grammar of economic explanations is characterized by the meansend rationality principle, which can be understood by drawing a conceptual distinction between its two facets: theoretical abstraction and empirical content. The former serves as a pure form of economic way of thinking and thus delimits the capacities of economists to perceive and understand the manifold human behaviour. The latter provides economists with objects of thought and renders the discipline empirically relevant. Given the implications of the two facets of rationality, the main task of economics as a descriptive science is to incorporate appropriate empirical content into the pure rational framework with the aim of better explaining and predicting human behaviour. As a prescriptive science, economic inquiry should draw on the persuasion and communication skills of its practitioners, thereby influencing the state of the economy through changing the means and ends of the decision makers in question.

3. Nordhaus on philosophy in climate change economics

Laurent Jodoin.
Nordhaus' contribution to climate change economics is well-known and, for many, praiseworthy. But his refusal to acknowledge his normative stances is philosophically problematic. This article explores his arguments about philosophy in the economics of climate change found in his review of the Stern's Review (2007). It concludes that Nordhaus nonetheless relies on normative, ethical assumptions, whose oversight hinders the finding of a solution to the problems he tries himself to solve.

4. Nietzsche, Deleuze and Guattari: performative Nietzsche, Deleuze and Guattari: performative constitution of unpayable debt in finance constitution of unpayable debt in finance capitalism capitalism

Christina Banalopoulou.
Drawing upon the philosophies of Friedrich Nietzsche and Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari this essay puts forth the argument that in finance capitalism debt resolution performs as an elusive promise and an appearance that reconstitutes unpayable debt. A close elaboration on Nietzsche's conceptual cartographies of the relation between the flows of Apollo and Dionysus and on the contextualization of this relation within capitalist frames that, as this essay demonstrates, Deleuze and Guattari explore in both Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus contributes to the argument that in finance capitalism unpayable debt is performatively constituted through illusions of debt resolution. To date little work offers a performative approach of Deleuze and Guattari's conceptualization of the differential relation between the two flows of capital that constitute unpayable debt, including the ties between these flows and Nietzsche's grasp of the differential relation between Apollo and Dionysus. As a result the performative strategies that constitute, justify, and reproduce unpayable debt in finance capitalism remain relatively unexplored. This essay draws upon the works of Nietzsche and Deleuze and Guattari and adds a performative methodology on the ongoing discussions on debt in order to address the practices that infinitize debt under the gaze of financial capital.

5. Marx’s Law of value and the ontology of labour: a Castoriadian critical point of view

Richard Sobel.
In Marx’s thought, is ‘law of value’ a particular law of capitalism (historicism) or a general law of the economy (naturalism)? To clarify this ambiguity, this article proposes to employ the social ontology of Cornélius Castoriadis. For it, ‘labour’ is not a substance, but a recent historical creation through which, finally, the capitalist mode of production expresses a fundamental truth about all society’s way of being. From this perspective, we explore some consequences of this deconstruction for the theory of value as current neo-Marxist approaches may employ it today in their economic analyses.

6. Towards a theory of ignorance

Adam Fforde.
The paper develops an argument for the criteria that a theory of ignorance should meet. It starts from the distinction between instrumental and non-instrumental action. Usually, the latter is considered irrational and the former rational as being based upon known cause-effect relations whilst the latter is not. I argue that the former requires a reasoned basis in predictive knowledge of cause and effect, without which good council is either for inaction or noninstrumental action. The argument proceeds by exploiting mainstream statistical methods to explore an example of a 'metric of advised ignorance' to guide explicit reasoned choice allowing rejection of instrumental action in favour of inaction or non-instrumental action. The argument then explores a case study of how such rejection is disallowed by official requirements in International Development Assistance (aid) that contexts must always be believed predictive and so action organised as instrumental. This shows the basic irrationality of mainstream policy rationality. The paper then discusses wider social epistemological issues of this irrationality and concludes with a list of criteria a theory of ignorance should meet.

7. Comparing economic theories or: pluralism in economics and the need for a comparative approach to scientific research programmes

Arne Heise.
Pluralism in economics appears to be a double-edged sword: we need more than one theory to grasp and explain the entire economic world, yet a plurality of possible explanations undermines the aspiration of the economic discipline to provide ‘objective knowledge’ in the singular of the ‘one world one truth’ conception. Therefore, pluralism is often equated with relativism and obscurantism. In this article, I will explore both the demand for pluralism and the fear of relativism and obscurantism, scrutinising each position in order to evaluate their respective justification and devising a methodological proposal that may appease both the defender and the sceptic of economic pluralism.

8. Rejoinder on animal spirits in Descartes and Keynes: a response to Kurt Smith

Sonya Scott.
This essay serves as a response to Kurt Smith, who wrote a philosophical and historical commentary on my 2018 essay entitled ‘Crises, confidence and animal spirits: exploring subjectivity in the dualism of Descartes and Keynes’ in The Journal of Philosophical Economics. It also provides a rejoinder to my original commentary on the role of animal spirits in relation to dualism in the work of Descartes and Keynes. I address Smith’s historical-philosophical response to my work in three ways. First, I revisit Gilbert Ryle’s concept of the intellectualist legend with respect to understanding the Cartesian tradition of thought and expand upon my own exegetical approach in order to clear up the thorny issue of determining and asserting authorial intention. Second, I address the problem of establishing analogies between texts and disciplines. In order to do so I will revisit my earlier critique of the concept of ‘the Economy’ and show that, contra to Smith’s reading, it is not in fact analogous to Descartes’ ‘human being.’ Finally, I open up a fresh exploration of the nature of the relationship between economic rationality and economic system, looking at the broader economic vision of Keynes and some of his notorious opponents – Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek.

9. Why is economics not part of a system of scientific ethics? A review essay on Wilfred Dolfsma and Ioana Negru’s The Ethical Formation of Economists

Altug Yalcintas.
Until the 1990s, the most used research and teaching materials for economists were print journal articles and print books. Since the Internet was commercialized in the 1990s, economists have used digital technologies in research and teaching. Journal articles and books are now more easily accessed. Online subscription systems allow economists to acquire electronic study and research materials in real time. Researchers can access a wealth of teaching and research materials freely and openly. In this essay [1], I focus on Wilfred Dolfsma and Ioana Negru’s The Ethical Formation of Economists (Dolfsma and Negru 2019) and claim that digital economics research requires a global understanding of ethics consistent with the values of scholarly practices. In the absence of scientific ethics, digital tools and software can harm the members of scholarly communities internationally and become a source of scientific misconduct. Economics should be taught as part of a system of scientific ethics.

10. Review of Craig Smith, Adam Smith, Cambridge / Medford MA, Polity Press, 1st Edition, 2020, 210 pp., pb, ISBN-13: 978-1-5095-1823-4

Sergiu Bălan.

11. Review of Dumas, Lloyd J., Building the Good Society. The Power and Limits of Markets, Democracy and Freedom in an Increasingly Polarized World, Emerald Publishing, 2020, xiv+228 pp., hb, ISBN 978-1-83867-632-2

George Şerban-Oprescu.

12. Review of Mark Thornton, The Skyscraper Curse: And How Austrian Economists Predicted Every Major Economic Crisis of the Last Century, Auburn, Alabama, Mises Institute, 2018, 275 pp., pb, ISBN 978-1-61016-684-3

Alexandru Pătruţi.

13. Review of Andrea Komlosy, Work. The Last 1000 Years, translated by Jakob K. Watson with Loren Balhorn, London, Verso, 2018, 265 pp., hb, ISBN 978-1-78663-410-8

Valentin Cojanu.