Metaphor and Dogma in the History of Macroeconomics
Chapter 7: Crossing the border: ‘microfoundations’ in the other social sciences
7.1 INTRODUCTION The term ‘microfoundations’ has been taken up by many sociologists, political scientists and theoretically minded historians, in what appears at ﬁrst glance to be yet another striking example of successful economics imperialism (Fine and Milonakis 2009). In this chapter I trace the eruption of the microfoundations dogma into the literature of several other social sciences. The story that I have to tell is again a complicated one. As we have seen, economists have been very careless in their employment of metaphors, and very largely ignorant of the methodological mineﬁeld(s) that they were traversing. I had not anticipated that similar criticisms might apply to their colleagues in the disciplines of sociology, political science or history, but in fact they do, albeit to a lesser degree. In the event, the economists’ attempts to colonize the other social sciences proved to be largely unsuccessful. Thus the microfoundations dogma provides a very informative historical case study in the use – and misuse – of metaphors in social science, and in the failure of economics imperialism. I begin by considering the use of both the term and the concept of microfoundations in sociology (Section 7.2), in political science (Section 7.3) and in historiography (Section 7.4). Then I discuss its application to Analytical Marxism, which straddles all three of these academic disciplines (Section 7.5), before drawing some tentative conclusions (in Section 7.6). 7.2 THE SOCIOLOGISTS Social scientists have always been more methodologically aware than economists. Debates between individualists and anti-individualists go back a very...
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