Wednesday, July 13, 2011

addendum: stories?

Of course, the idea that NC econ is built on stories is not a new one; McCloskey made the point nicely in The Rhetoric of Economics over 20 years ago and Steve Cohn, professor at Knox and UMass Econ PhD, has argued in "Telling other Stories" that that's precisely what heterodox economists need to do: tell stories which are anti-Mankiw.

Look, you either stress the rhetoric or the "rigor", and you are either orthodox or heterodox.

-Orthodox rigor people are the "positive economics" people out there, people who just want orthodox economics on some "scientific" footing, whether that be more math, or better statistical analysis, or what have you.

-Heterodox rigor people are similar. They want to fight NC economists by "beating them at their own game" -- becoming better mathematicians or statisticians or historians than the orthodox economists, and answer heterodox/left-leaning questions in the process to jet them out.

-Orthodox rhetoric people are the welfare economists, the economists who quite consciously seek to propagate mainstream theory. Mankiw, for example. At the very very top of the ladder, these people often blur with the orthodox rigor people because they are just so good at everything. (Duflo, Acemoglu come to mind).

-Heterodox rhetoric people are the political activists, Marxists, anarchists out there who realize that there is a political battle to be won here and it won't just be won in the ivory tower. We need to raise awareness of fundamental wrongs in the economy and push for the smashing of capitalism and its institutions. At the very very top of the ladder, again, these people often blur with heterodox rigor people (Bowles... and not an economist but I would of course put some public intellectuals like Harvey or Chomsky or those guys at Wisconsin Soc/PolSci(?) in this group).

So in short, Cohn's view (mine as well) is that we need to come up with some good rhetorical strategies taking the form of anecdotes or stories which frame things from a workers' point of view. (McCloskey, on the other hand, believes we need to move in the 'scientific' direction in order to save NC econ.)

Cohn's list of stories is quite exhaustive, including Robinson Crusoe (apparently he owned a slave who was the other person on the island in the NC version of the story), Diamond/Water paradox, and "supermarket" analogies of an economic process rather than "workplace" analogies (even so-called "liberals" such as Brad DeLong are guilty of this fault, for example when he tries to analyze Polanyi's concept of a disembedded market *facepalm*). Needless to say, there is a lot of room for good ideas here.

We move next to a striking example of NC econ stories in action, one that has profoundly earth-shattering effects on Mankiw's text.

This article drew from Steve S. Cohn's "Telling other Stories: Heterodox Critiques of Neoclassical Micro Principles Texts", GDEI Working Paper 00-06, August 2000. Link here.

No comments:

Post a Comment