Epilogue: neoclassical economic theory and ideology
In Karl Mannheim’s Ideology and Utopia (1936), a seminal work in the field of the sociology of knowledge (see, for example, Merton, 1957), Mannheim reserves the term ideology for ideas that support the interests of privileged social groups and strata. Utopian ideas, in contrast, support underprivileged classes, and for the proponents of ideological ideas, utopian ideas are of necessity unattainable scenarios that violate the key propositions of ideological ideas, and therefore utopian ideas need to be marginalized and disarmed. In addition, Mannheim’s (1936) sociological theory of ideological and utopian ideas underlines the constitutive nature of such ideas and how they create a shared sense of community and joint understanding, which is what Ludwik Fleck once referred to as a thought collective:
We belong to a group not only because we are born into it, not merely because we profess to belong to it, nor finally because we give it our loyalty and allegiance, but primarily because we see the world and certain things in the world the way it does (i.e., in terms of the meanings of the group in question). (Mannheim, 1936: 19, emphasis added)
‘An economist by training think of himself as a guardian of rationality, the ascriber of rationality to others, and the prescriber of rationality to the social world’, the renowned economist Kenneth Arrow (1974: 16) admits.1 This declaration is revealing as it indicates how economists tend to think of themselves as defenders not of specific ideological ideas but of...
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