Before and after Economics
As a follow-up to some of the themes raised by guests on Volume 95 of the Journal
, listeners may want to read a piece by political theorist Mark T. Mitchell (author of Michael Polanyi: The Art of Knowing
). Published on the Front Porch Republic
, an online intellectual cooperative dedicated to exploring the place of place in our lives, Mitchell's article ("The Dismal Science vs. Community"
) is a discussion of a book by Harvard economist Stephen A. Marglin.
Marglin's book, The Dismal Science: How Thinking Like an Economist Undermines Community
(Harvard University Press, 2008), examines ways in which economics—like all sciences—presents a limited picture of human nature and human well-being, concealing more about the kinds of creatures we are than it reveals. Like biology, economics has become a powerful ideology, in Mitchell's words,
a self-contained worldview with its own set of values as well as a particular epistemology and ontology. In short, modern economics is not simply a means by which exchanges can be described or even a set of tools that ensure optimal efficiency of market transactions. The ideology of economics is a way of seeing the world. It forces reality into a preconceived structure and subsequently deigns to rule this truncated world with all the authority of science. The modern discipline of economics is, among other things, imperialistic in its aims and destructive in its consequences.
A video recording of a lecture
by Prof. Marglin (recorded shortly after the publication of his book) is available online at the FORA-TV
site. But read Mitchell's essay
first!Posted by Ken Myers on 4/14/09