Economics in the Shadows of Darwin and Marx

Economics in the Shadows of Darwin and Marx

Essays on Institutional and Evolutionary Themes

Geoffrey M. Hodgson

Economics in the Shadows of Darwin and Marx examines the legacies of these two giants of thought for the social sciences in the twenty-first century.

Chapter 4: Institutionalism versus Marxism: A Debate with Alex Callinicos

Geoffrey M. Hodgson

Subjects: economics and finance, economic psychology, evolutionary economics, history of economic thought, institutional economics


Second Peasant: ‘Oh there you go, bringing in class to it again’. First Peasant: ‘That’s what it’s all about! If only people would realize’. Monty Python and the Holy Grail 4.1 INTRODUCTION On 30 April 2001 a public debate was held at the University of Hertfordshire between Alex Callinicos from the University of York and Geoffrey M. Hodgson on the theme of ‘Institutionalism versus Marxism’. An edited transcript of the two opening speeches is reproduced below.1 Both speakers acknowledged a degree of doctrinal agreement. However, the debate also illuminated some fundamental differences of analysis and outlook between institutionalism and Marxism, in contrast to attempts to reconcile these doctrines (Dugger and Sherman, 2000; O’Hara, 2000). 4.2 IN DEFENCE OF INSTITUTIONALISM GEOFFREY M. HODGSON 4.2.1 This is not primarily a debate about political ideology When I say that this is not a debate about political ideology, my Marxist opponents will immediately quote from Marx’s eleventh Theses on Feuerbach of 1845 ‘the philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it’ (Marx and Engels, 1976, p. 5). Let us accept the importance of this statement: we are all dissatisfied with some aspects of the world and most of us want to change it in some way. But if we are going to change the world then it is important to understand it too. It is the role of social theory and the social sciences to obtain a scientific understanding of social structures and forces, before any attempt...

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