Thought for the day: Neoclassical economics is specific not only in scientific but also in ideological terms

Published on Real-World Economics Review Blog, by Peter Söderbaum, Oct. 20, 2010.

Mainstream neoclassical economics is a standardized language that claims to be helpful in understanding the world. Standardized or not; each language points in specific directions concerning relevant objects, relationships, processes etc. to focus upon. The language is socially constructed for specific purposes, for instance to deal with specific problems in specific ways.

Neoclassical economics, as an example, is specific not only in ‘scientific’ but also in ‘ideological’ terms. ‘Ideology’ stands for a ‘means-ends philosophy’ and is not limited to more or less established political ideologies like socialism, social democracy, social liberalism or neo-liberalism. In this sense, neoclassical economics clearly qualifies as an ideology and as such is more specific and precise than the political ideologies mentioned … //

… The ideological features of neoclassical economics also suggest that it becomes relevant to inquire into the similarities between neoclassical economics as ideology and the established political ideologies referred to. Has neoclassical economics contributed, for example, to make neo-liberalism more legitimate? Alternatives to the neoclassical conceptual framework and paradigm, such as some version of institutional economics, feminist economics or ecological economics are equally specific in ideological terms but may perform better in relation to the ecological crisis and/or the financial crisis. This is – again – a matter of subjective judgment. The important thing now in economics is to open the door for pluralism and competing (or complementary) theoretical perspectives and approaches. (full text).

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