Chapter 8: Dr Blaug's diagnosis: is economics sick?
Despite impeccable credentials even among mainstream economists, Mark Blaug did not mix his words of criticism. By the 1990s he was claiming repeatedly that mainstream economics had become obsessed with technique over substance and the discipline had become ‘sick’. Similar evaluations were shared by several other prominent economists, including a number of Nobel Laureates. But Mark was a renowned methodologist as well as a leading economist. And he was a methodologist who did not shrink from normative evaluation. After reviewing diagnoses of this sickness, I consider the possible grounding of this finding in the philosophy of economics. Mark was a devoted Popperian and Lakatosian. But it seems that Popperian falsificationism and its Lakatosian extension are inadequate as diagnostic methodologies in this area. Although Popper (1972) was attracted to evolutionary epistemology, it is in evolutionary developments by subsequent authors that more sophisticated diagnostic tools begin to appear. I refer to evolutionary theories of science proposed by Stephen Toulmin (1972), David Hull (1988) and Philip Kitcher (1993). Furthermore, Kitcher (1993) refers to social epistemology, which is relevant for this diagnostic agenda. Mark was opposed to the drift towards exclusively descriptive methodologies among philosophers of economics. Ostensibly, an evolutionary diagnostic approach might also offer grounds for some normative methodological criteria. It may be possible to remain a respectable philosopher of our science and concur that economics is sick. After discussing the diagnosis in the first section of this chapter, the second section addresses its possible basis in a Popperian or Lakatosian methodology.
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