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Is There Progress in Economics?

Knowledge, Truth and the History of Economic Thought

Edited by Stephan Boehm, Christian Gehrke, Heinz D. Kurz and Richard Sturn

This thought-provoking book discusses the concept of progress in economics and investigates whether any advance has been made in its different spheres of research. The authors look back at the history, successes and failures of their respective fields and thoroughly examine the notion of progress from an epistemological and methodological perspective.
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Chapter 3: On Applying Foucauldian methods to the history of economic thought

Knowledge, Truth and the History of Economic Thought

Klaus Hamberger


Klaus Hamberger* INTRODUCTION Despite the crucial position of economics in Michel FoucaultÕs major work, The Order of Things (Les Mots et les Choses, 1966), his achievements as an historian and philosopher of science have largely been neglected by historians of economic thought. As compared with the reception of Foucauldian ideas by political science, sociology, medicine and so on, FoucaultÕs impact on economics is still negligible; and after all, Foucault himself left behind the subject of economics when he passed from the field of epistemology into the arena of political philosophy (thereby also dissolving his last bonds to structuralism). Unfortunately, the scientific community willingly joined him in dropping his earlier issues, and thus a whole treasure of questions sank back into the dark before they could prove their methodological power and philosophical fertility. This was a missed opportunity not only for the history of economic thought but also for the general philosophy of science, which has seldom or never endeavoured to treat the ÔyoungÕ and still ÔimpureÕ science of economics not only as a legitimate object of, but even as a model for, epistemological work. The history of economic thought still comprises an extraordinary variety of instruments, styles and genres. We find rational reconstructions as well as sociological investigations, biographical anecdotes and literary statistics, criticisms of ideology and metaphysics of history. This methodological variety, which sometimes might seem close to a complete lack of method, may partly be due to the fact that, on the one hand, the history...

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