Home > Uncategorized > Economics is always ‘political economics’

Economics is always ‘political economics’

from Peter Söderbaum

Mainstream neoclassical economics is attacked by many and from different angles or vantage points. Neither the defendants nor the critics can claim value-neutrality. “Values are always with us” (Myrdal 1978) and economics is always ‘political economics’. The neoclassical attempt to construct a ‘pure’ economics has failed. Neoclassical theory may still survive as a theory that is specific in scientific and ideological terms and useful for some purposes. But this survival has to be accompanied by the admission that neoclassical theory is built on assumptions that are specific in terms of ethics and ideology and that alternatives to these assumptions exist. The future of neoclassical theory is therefore not only a matter of its usefulness to solve economic problems in some sense but also has to do with the ideological preferences of scholars who have become accustomed to neoclassical theory and of other actors in society who may exploit neoclassical theory for their own purposes. Vested interests are involved and in neoclassical language one may argue that even when the conceptual weaknesses are demonstrated and understood there may still be a considerable ‘demand’ for neoclassical theory.

The vision of one logically closed economic theory for all purposes has to be abandoned in favour of an idea that different theories are useful for different purposes and that attempts to reduce these different theories to one single Master theory are no longer meaningful. In a democracy, the continued existence of competing and complementary theories, reflecting different ideological points of view is a necessity and is even positive for the development of economics as a discipline. Monopoly for one theory is not conducive to new thinking and creativity. ‘Competition’ may sometimes be good for individuals and for society at large, to once more use a neoclassical vocabulary.

One often hears actors argue in ways suggesting that Western societies are democracies by definition. But even if these societies perform well in some respects it is equally true that all ‘democracies’ can be strengthened. The existence of monopoly for neoclassical theory at Departments of Economics all over the world exemplifies an element of ‘dictatorship’ that cannot be accepted and has to be replaced by competition and pluralism.

Click to access Soderbaum43.pdf

  1. July 12, 2022 at 2:27 pm

    Reblogged this on Calculus of Decay .

  2. Blissex
    July 13, 2022 at 1:44 am

    «“Values are always with us” (Myrdal 1978) and economics is always ‘political economics’.»

    It may be still somewhat useful to remember that the “political” in “political economics” does not refer to the activity of politics, but as opposed to the “domestic” of “domestic economics”. That is “political economics” is about the economy of the state (“polis”) while “domestic economics” is about the economy of the household (“domos”).

    Then of course the economy of the state is about politics.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: