Critical Essays on the Political Economy of Neo-Liberalism
Edited by Philip Arestis and Malcolm Sawyer
Chapter 5: Economics imperialism as Kuhnian revolution?
5. Economics imperialism as Kuhnian revolution?* Ben Fine 1. INTRODUCTION It is now 40 years since Thomas Kuhn laid out his theory of scientiﬁc revolution. Kuhn was initially concerned with explaining how science changed, drawing a distinction between normal, smoothly evolving science within a given paradigm and revolutionary science that blazes a shorter, if not short, sharp shift between paradigms. As a result, Kuhn’s language, especially the notion of a paradigm for example, has become commonplace even as substantive understanding of his contribution, and criticism of it, have declined. Further, in the scholarly literature, more than enough time has passed for his approach to have been fully traversed, if not forgotten, territory in understanding the sources and nature of intellectual change. For those economists who participated, even if merely as an audience, in the Kuhnian revolution, it ought in retrospect to stand out as a remarkably rare period of self-examination of a discipline that is notoriously unaware of, and uninterested in, its own history and methodological underpinnings.1 Whilst primarily concerned with the history of science, Kuhnian notions were readily transposed to the social sciences without economics standing on the sidelines as an exception, as has been so for other intellectual fashions such as postmodernism in the more recent period.2 This is not to suggest that the Kuhnian project was readily assimilated without modiﬁcation within the dismal science. But it did receive a surprisingly broad welcome across the discipline, from both orthodoxy and heterodoxy. The mainstream, for example, could...
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