Economics and Other Social Sciences at the Beginning of XXI Century. Between Imperialism and Cooperation.

Michał Brzeziński, Marian Gorynia, Zbigniew Hockuba

Ekonomista 2 / 2008


The text is opened by the remarkable sentence. The authors state that most of the economists and the representatives of other social sciences would agree, that so called mainstream economics is the “queen of social science”. Mainstream economics (ME) is understood mainly as neokeynesian ones. There are at least two reasons for such a title. One is that ME uses mathematic commonly and tries to formulate laws in terms of mathematical equations. The second reason is its significance in modern society, what seems to be confirmed by the fact, that economics is the only social science, whose scholars can be awarded by Nobel Prize. The authors argue that those are the reasons of the so called “imperialism” of economics. That imperialism means that economics had a tremendous impact on the other social sciences like law, politics, sociology, whilst the revert impact could have been hardly noticed so far. In its most radical view, the imperialism tends to reduce all other social sciences to the economics and therefore is connected with the philosophical postulate of science unification. However reading the article further we can learn that pointed impact used to be strong in the past, before the collapse of the equilibrium theory, what is commonly bound with the theorem of Sonnenschein-Mantel-Debreu who, simply speaking proved that the equilibrium theory is not possible. Since then we can watch the reverse process of the mutual penetration of social science. The case of economics and management sciences is analyzed as well as behavioral economics (as an example of common program of economics and psychology) and penetration of economics and sociology. The conclusion goes toward co-operation. If the new mainstream is about to emerge it will be rather founded on two social assumption: 1) agents are more socially embedded then atomic and 2) agents and social-economics structures (environment, market, institutions) influence each others.


In the methodology of economics we seem to make a step back. We go to the early modern philosophers like Smith, Mill or Knight (two first mentioned in the text) who never claimed that economics should be practiced like physic or chemistry. That idea (unification of science) comes from Comte and from the neo-positivists of Vienna circle. It has never been realized. After almost 100 years it is the highest time to rethink the way in which we explore the complex economic phenomena and formulate the theories. The fact that economists look for the solutions of their problems in other disciplines is a good and remarkable sign. Especially as those branches, beyond the mainstream are more modest and do not claim to construct the omnipotent theories and are more descriptive then normative.


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