Petty academic squabbles: economics edition


There are some funny, scathing lines from Philip Mirowski – starting with the title – in “The Great Mortification: Economists’ Responses to the Crisis of 2007- (and counting)“: 

For the ragged remnants of economic methodologists, it was a sorry sight to watch a few older economists rummaging around in the stale vague recesses of memories of undergraduate courses criticizing Milton Friedman’s little 1954 benediction for believing whatever you pleased as long as it was neoclassical, and coming up with nothing better than badly garbled versions of Popper and Kuhn. Of course quite a few had premonitions that something had gone very wrong, but the sad truth was that they were clueless when it came to the analytical construction of an abstract philosophical argument in isolating just where the flaws in professional practice could be traced and assessing the extent to which they were susceptible to methodological remedies. Mired in banality, the best they could prescribe was more of the same. No wonder almost every economist took their philosophical perplexity as an occasion to settle internecine scores within the narrow confines of the orthodox neoclassical profession: MIT v. Chicago, Walras v. Marshall, mindless econometrics v. mindless axiomatics, New Keynesians v. New Classicals, Pareto sub-optima v. rational bubbles, efficient markets v. informationally challenged markets.

This was all so boring one can’t help thinking it was being done on purpose, to lull the rabble back to sleep.

Update: Just for some context, the “heterodox” wing of the economics department at Notre Dame, where Mirowski works, will soon be abolished. He’s also written some excellent stuff (the “Viridiana Jones Chronicles”, sadly no longer available online) about the deleterious effects on universities of

  1. The changing form of corporations and the outsourcing of commercial R&D.
  2. The withdrawal of the state from (its postwar roles in) science patronage and management.
  3.  The retreat from the premise that the state should be the provider of education for the populace.
  4. Transformation of intellectual property.

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One Response to “Petty academic squabbles: economics edition”

  1. Nick Says:

    But terrible writing, no? I know he makes a point of it, but those first two sentences are ridiculous. Too many gerunds, and at several points it’s unclear what the subject is (the economists, their courses, Friedman’s article, the economists again).

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