Economics as science and ideology
from Peter Söderbaum
Book review of Offer, Avner and Gabriel Söderberg, The Nobel Factor: The Prize in Economics, Social Democracy and the Market Turn, Princeton University Press, Princeton 2016.
Since 1969 there has been a so called Nobel Economics Prize. It is not a normal Nobel Prize established by Alfred Nobel but rather a prize reminding us of the 300 year existence of the Central Bank in Sweden. The correct name is “The Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel”. The history of this prize, how it came about and its development over the years with Laureates and their achievements is now presented by two scholars in Economic History, Avner Offer and Gabriel Söderberg.
Offer and Söderberg appear to be well acquainted with developments in mainstream economics and the different achievements by the winners of the prize. However, their study is of interest mainly because they depart from neoclassical economists in their approach. Mainstream economists believe in value-neutrality (or at least behave as if they believed in value-neutrality). For Offer and Söderberg, value issues are instead at the heart of analysis. They are interested in the ideological and political role of “the Nobel Factor” over the years.
Beliefs in value-neutrality suggest that the values or ideological orientations of economists are of little interest. The scholar is just looking for the truth about economic agents (households and firms), the functioning of markets and the economy as a whole. In fact this value-neutrality idea functions as a “limited responsibility” doctrine for the neoclassical economist as scholar. read more