Mark Blaug: Rebel with Many Causes

Mark Blaug: Rebel with Many Causes

Edited by Marcel Boumans and Matthias Klaes

This collection of eminent contributions discusses the ideas and works of Mark Blaug, who has made important and often pioneering contributions to economic history, economic methodology, the economics of education, development economics, cultural economics, economic theory and the history of economic thought. Besides these assessments of Blaug’s influence and impact in these fields, this volume also contains a selection of personal portraits which depict him as a colleague, a friend and an opponent. Blaug was also a voracious reader and prolific writer, which is clearly evidenced by the comprehensive bibliography.

Chapter 8: Dr Blaug's diagnosis: is economics sick?

Geoffrey M. Hodgson

Subjects: economics and finance, cultural economics, economics of education, history of economic thought, methodology of economics

Extract

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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