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Economic Philosophy

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  57 Ratings  ·  7 Reviews
-Economics has always been partly a vehicle- for the ruling ideology of each period as well as partly a method of scientific investigation. It limps along with one foot in untested hypotheses and the other in untestable slogans. Here our task is to sort out as best we may this mixture of ideology and science.- With these provocative words, Joan Robinson introduces this liv ...more
Paperback, 150 pages
Published September 1st 2006 by Routledge (first published 1962)
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Smoke and Mirrors

Joan Robinson was a Keynesian economist, a Communist, a defender of the Cultural Revolution of Mao Zedong and of the ‘economic miracle’ of 1950’s North Korea - so not all that prophetically gifted. She nonetheless in one of the few economists who had something interesting to say about the implicit philosophy underlying their discipline.

Robinson had a healthy non-philosopher’s understanding of philosophy. For her, philosophy is metaphysics, and “The hallmark of a metaphysical pro
Ingenious little discussion about how many of the main concepts of economics are not empirically valid 'scientific' concepts, but are instead metaphysical definitions. Also has some important considerations on how ideology often distorts attempts at empirical analysis. The main criteria for whether an economic doctrine is scientific is largely taken from Popper's question of falsifiability - whether it is specific enough that it can be proven false.

Two main points that contemporary readers will
Feb 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
"Meanwhile, from the orthodox camp the labour theory, with its disagreeable smell, had been swept out and utility had come in.

"Utility is a metaphysical concept of impregnable circularity; utility is the quality in commodities that makes individuals want to buy them, and the fact that individuals want to buy them shows that they have utility.

"It came into vogue first in connexion with the theory of relative prices. Purporting to be a quantity, it could be spoken of in terms of total, average and
Alex Nelson
Jan 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics
Robinson investigates what it means to be "scientific" in economics. She uses Popperian falsification for the criteria, which seems weak...she doesn't really give any examples of scientific concepts in economics.

Concepts which are, uh, "beyond scientific" are considered "metaphysical". She considers both "value" (from classical economics) and "utility" (from the marginalist paradigm) both "metaphysical concepts". Great. But are there any scientific concepts?

Before answering that question, Robins
Feb 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics
Read chapter 3 for the economic pluralism reading group. It was a brilliant critique of the concept of utility and how the Marginal Revolution brought it into the heart of modern economics. Really want to read the rest of the book as well.
Oct 17, 2015 rated it liked it
It wasn't necessarily that it was bad, as the primary theme is certainly agreeable across the ages. Rather, much of it seemed quite outdated (occasionally to the extent of being obsolete, perhaps). Definitely still worth the read if the subject is of interest to you, though.
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
(Parts of) this book should be mandatory reading for economics students.
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Joan Violet Robinson FBA was a British post-Keynesian economist who was well known for her work on monetary economics and wide-ranging contributions to economic theory.
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“The misery of being exploited by capitalists is nothing compared to the misery of not being exploited all.” 8 likes
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