Edited by John B. Davis and D. Wade Hands
Chapter 20: The Spontaneous Methodology of Orthodoxy, and Other Economists’ Afflictions in the Great Recession
Philip Mirowski 20.1 AN ANATOMY OF CHAGRIN It is never a life-affirming experience to be the guest of honor at a statusdegradation ceremony; but ever since Plato and Boethius, one source of solicitude has been the consolations of philosophy. A grounding in philosophy has often permitted those of a contemplative turn to weather the brickbats and reversals of cruel fate. One may disagree or not with such notions of the nobility of stoicism, but the spectacle of victims deficient in such consolations flailing away at their fate must be conceded a less edifying phenomenon. It may also constitute a topic in cognitive psychology, something we shall explore shortly. This chapter contemplates one such disaster, the reactions of the economics profession to the economic crisis which began in 2007. No sane person could welcome a worldwide economic contraction; but the economics profession was particularly vulnerable to scorn and derision with its onset, because the orthodox majority had been boasting of unprecedented success in guaranteeing prosperity during the first decade of the millennium, often under the rubric of ‘The Great Moderation’.1 Furthermore, the economists had grown so confident in their orthodoxy that they had driven out most rival views and approaches from the richest and most powerful academic settings. This relative homogeneity of their disciplinary convictions helped to set the stage for what has become a rolling come-uppance. Once the contraction proceeded in earnest in 2008, it became commonplace in newspapers, blogs and symposia at various universities to query openly why these...
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