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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 7: Scientific progress: complexities of a contestable concept

Knowledge, Truth and the History of Economic Thought

Uskali Mäki


Uskali MŠki PROGRESS Ð NOW? The official theme of this conference is progress in economics. The question we have been asked to consider in this panel is whether there has been progress in economics. My first gut reaction to this invitation was to wonder if there is an anachronism implied. Has the conference and the panel been organized by a bunch of uninformed reactionaries who havenÕt realized that there has been progress with regard to the notion of progress? HavenÕt most of us been persuaded that progress is a modernist enlightenment notion that has been dropped from the agenda of at least the more progressive forces in the intellectual arena? HavenÕt we learnt by now that it is to be taken as an indication of progress not to bother about progress any more? As the formulations above suggest, the attempt to dispense with the notion of progress encounters difficulties that are similar to those faced by truth relativism: it is hard or impossible to deny the relevance or intelligibility of concepts such as progress or truth in a way that is not self-undermining. One cannot even use the concept of being reactionary without implying that of progress. I therefore feel safe and justified in gratefully joining the organizers in addressing the issue of progress in economics. PROGRESS Ð WHAT? My second gut reaction was that the issue of progress is immensely complex, blessed with deep ambiguities and a variety of rival and complementary perspectives. In the present era,...

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