Chapter 2: From Economic Imperialism to Social Science Inspiration
ECONOMIC IMPERIALISM It has become generally accepted within the economics profession to apply economic reasoning beyond the area of the economy. Such applications – known as Rational Choice Analysis – have, for instance, been made to education, health, the natural environment, the family, military conﬂict, ethics, history, sports, religion and the arts. At the same time, the rational choice analysis, on which economics is based, has been exported to several other disciplines, such as political science, international relations, sociology and law. In particular, the invasion of the rational choice paradigm into political science, called Public Choice, has proved to be a major success. However, there are ﬁrst signs that the easy gains in insights achieved when a paradigm is applied to a new area are diminishing. Economics, and in particular Public Choice, is no longer as exciting as it used to be. Normality in the form of orthodox neo-classical economics has taken over. Progress tends to be marginal; the subject becomes more and more standardized. Many contributions are rather mechanistic, while originality and innovation threaten to disappear altogether. Today, people fancy other areas, such as evolutionary or chaos theory, but it is, of course, an open question whether these new trends will ever reach a degree of popularity comparable to rational choice. This rather sober evaluation of the present state of economics does not imply that there are no fascinating areas and topics in the ﬁeld. Over the last few years, relevant new insights have been gained even in traditional subjects....
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