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Geoffrey M. Hodgson

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Geoffrey M. Hodgson

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Geoffrey M. Hodgson

This chapter addresses Cambridge heterodox economics from the 1940s to the 1980s. It considers how it developed under the leadership of Joan Robinson, Piero Sraffa, Nicholas Kaldor and others. Its focus is not primarily on their contributions, important as they are, but on the institutions that affected their development, and the leftist ideologies that motivated the protagonists and infused their presentations. Some peculiar features and omissions are noted, including the precedence of macroeconomics over microeconomics and the lack of attention to the claims of the unfeasibility of full-blooded socialism in the socialist calculation debate. There was a lack of connection to other critiques of neoclassical economics, such as the behavioural economics of Herbert Simon. Neoclassical economics was wrongly identified as an apologia for a market economy and the capital controversy focused on technicalities, neglecting e arguments over capitalism versus socialism.

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Geoffrey M. Hodgson

This chapter shows that prevailing attributes of current heterodox economics can be traced back to pre-1980 Cambridge heterodoxy. But there is still no agreement by self-described heterodox economists on what heterodox economics means. The chapter considers different attempts to define a meaning, the most important of which are by Tony Lawson and Frederic Lee. Lee’s definition is criticized as unworkable and it is shown that Lawson’s argument – concerning the ontologically inappropriate use of mathematics – implies that several economists that are not normally regarded as heterodox would be so. Lawson’s definition has failed to attract a wide following in the heterodox community. Both Lee’s and Lawson’s arguments have ideological underpinnings. Andrew Mearman’s abandonment of attempts to provide a clear definition of heterodoxy is criticized. A neglected possible criterion to distinguish orthodoxy from heterodoxy is suggested, centring on the use or non-use of utility maximization. Reasons for the neglect of this Max U demarcation criterion are outlined.

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Geoffrey M. Hodgson

This chapter appraises claims by David Colander, John Davis and others that mainstream economics is moving away from the central assumption of utility maximization (Max U). By contrast, it is argued that current behavioural economics has reconciled itself to utility maximization as a norm, from which behaviour is said to sometimes deviate. The assumption of Max U was tied up with the professionalization of Anglophone economics as a discipline from the 1880s. The argument here that Max U still prevails has major consequences for the definitions of orthodoxy and heterodoxy. In addition, the empirical unfalsifiability of the assumption of Max U also makes it difficult to dislodge. Despite numerous important developments in recent decades, mainstream economics may prove much more difficult to budge from its enduring core assumptions. Richer, alternative explanations of human motivation need to be considered and developed, but they are infrequently discussed in the heterodox community.

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Geoffrey M. Hodgson

This chapter brings together insights from the philosophy and sociology of science and from social epistemology, to analyse heterodox economics as a scientific community. Sciences are considered as decentralized coordination systems, facing problems of dispersed, complex knowledge, distributed over multiple researchers. Sciences are thus systems of institutionalized power, depending on authority and consensus as well as pluralism. In line with the work of Michael Polanyi, Thomas Kuhn, Philip Kitcher and others, it is argued that, while pluralism is necessary for innovation, a degree of consensus over core issues is also necessary for sustained progress in science. Such a consensus is needed for cumulative advance, to avoid debating everything over and over again, and to aid quality control within the scientific community. Such a degree of agreement is absent in current heterodox economics. Consequently, it suffers from severe problems of quality control.

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Geoffrey M. Hodgson

This chapter considers the pros and cons of eight possible strategies for heterodox economics. It is argued that any scientific community must have a raison d’être, a specified zone of engagement, varied incentives for researchers, effective mechanisms of quality control, and a good measure of consensus, while adopting a degree of pluralism. These possible strategies are considered: (1) To split heterodox economics away from the mainstream and organize it in separate departments. (2) To engaging heterodoxy more fully with the mainstream. (3) To promote the unification of the social sciences. (4) To move into business schools. (5) To regroup more narrowly around heterodox achievements, such as in monetary theory. (6) To focus on developing critiques and alternatives to utility maximization. (7) To focus on institutions from the viewpoint of economics. (8) To embrace multi-disciplinary perspectives on economic institutions. These strategies should be considered by the heterodox community for possible experimentation.

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Geoffrey M. Hodgson

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Is There a Future for Heterodox Economics?

Institutions, Ideology and a Scientific Community

Geoffrey M. Hodgson

Over the last 50 years, the community of heterodox economists has expanded, and its publications have proliferated. But its power in departments of economics has waned. Addressing this paradox, this book argues that heterodox economists are defined more by left ideology than by a shared understanding of the nature of orthodox economics and of what should replace it. Heterodox economists cannot agree on what heterodoxy means. This volume applies work on the social nature and institutions of science to help explain the failure of heterodox economics to gain ground. It assesses some strategic options for its future.
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Geoffrey M. Hodgson