Embedding theories in history
from Asad Zaman and the WEA Pedagogy Blog
Based on my analysis of Polanyi’s methodology, I have come to the conclusion that a radical economics textbook for the twenty first century can be based on a single CORE principle, which REVERSES conventional methodology. Conventional methodology, both heterodox and orthodox, considers economic theories to be a means to understanding economic events. INSTEAD, we should look at how theories emerged as people searched for explanations for emergent historical events. In particular, different theories would favor different group interests and the dominance of one theory over others would be dictated by the political power of the different groups For example, Polanyi shows how theories are generated by historical process — the emergence of the possibility of large scale production led to the emergence of market friendly theories.
This idea was lost from view because of the empiricist illusion that the facts by themselves are sufficient to determine theories. A great deal of creative energy goes into weaving a narrative around any given collection of facts, leaving a great deal of room for human agency, and for blending in class interests into a theory. Instead of using theories to understand economic processes, I would like to use historical context to understand the formation of economic theories. For example: read more