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Aren't you focussing far too much on (explaining) behaviour of individual actors and failing to take into account that collective behaviour is complex (i.e. results from interactions between too many -agency imbued- actors to be analysable in that way) in which causality is not necessarily more important than intentionality, narrratives and competing discourses and in which path dependence makes analysis of behaviour being categorically caused by either x or y or both futile? Agreeing on behaviour being driven by interests and/or ideas primarily implies agreement on a language and a perspective, that will subsequently performatively create social reality in its likeness. If economists convince people that they act in accordance with ideas (and when they have a positive image of themselves: ideals) society will improve. If economists convince people that they act in accordance with interests (and that serving one's own interest is only natural) society will deteriorate. Let us please take our responsibility as economists to improve society! Please see my "Economics as meant" presentation of a year ago in Leuven:
Outside ordered contexts like totalitarian states & dictatorially governed organisations, economic behaviour is an emergent outcome of complex adaptive systems. Seeking unidirectional causal relations to explain it is pointless. It is path dependent, dependent on a lot behaviour elsewhere in the system and constrained only to a limited extent by characteristics of the system as a whole. Unless the economic system is a chaos or in crisis economic behaviour IS coherent, but the coherence cannot be modelled with causal hierarchies. It forms emerging & shifting patterns, like boom and bust cycles, tendencies to open or close to interventions and intrusions from outside the system, centralising and decentralising tendencies, homogenising and diversificatoin tendencies etc.. Often contradictory tendencies and patterns in different part and subsystems. Our perception of those patterns and tendencies and our expression of our perceptions (especially if we have well-connected positions in the system) amplify some of them and counteract others. Choosing between 'interests' and 'ideas' as 'drivers' of behaviour is not going to help us to understand it, even if it might have a role in influencing it...
I still miss (for economists) "The economy is human. Take into account humanity: goal setting & circumventing causality." Which amounts to: Be aware of complexity. With reference to the Cynefin framework: Economies are ideally and to a substantial extent complex adaptive systems (complex domain) rather than complicated, let alone obvious systems. If economists and (on their advice or of that of their long dead forebears) politicians treat economies as ordered (complicated or obvious) systems, that will damage their adaptivity and may plunge them into chaos. Assume interaction rather than (unambiguous) causality as a rule, with clear causality as a usually temporary and artificial exception, not least artificial because of the performative effect of our own economic models. (Eg humans behaving selfish and rational because of our Homo economicus assumptions and markets behaving recognisably as they do because we assume them to behave as such.)
Democracy IN ITS PRESENT FORM is incompatible with deep economic integration on a European scale and an experience of 'sovereignty' by 'the people' (not necessarily only on a national scale). Decisions by heads of governments chosen in 'democratic' processes are not experienced as sufficiently democratic (and rightly so, because every layer of delegation reduces effective influence). Representative democracy itself, even at a national level, is challenged by our increased possibilities to e-interact directly with increasing numbers of people, outmanoeuvring outdated hierarchical political structures. So democracy has to be re-invented anyway, for Europe and on a European scale, but also nationally and in order to accommodate subnational (ethnic, language, cultural) tensions. 'Repairing democracy' as it was is no option any more. We need a type of democracy that goes beyond counting votes. It should focus on transparency of decision making processes in which arguments are weighed and on the possibility for every citizen to offer arguments as input for that process. Not the number of votes, but the content and quality of voices should determine decisions. Internet provides the means; face-to-face decision making needs to be and can easily be supplemented by it to facility the transparency and inclusivity of political decision making that is needed on all levels.
The alternative for seeking 'laws' and 'facts' in economics is indeed taking the 'performativity thesis' as starting point. Contrary to what you wrote 4 years ago ( I think economics 'is' ALWAYS performative (if you want to see social 'reality' that way), even if economic 'laws' and 'facts' fail to convince people of their 'reality' and fail to create the conditions that 'prove' their 'reality'. 'Performativity' is itself a perspective, which can gain adherence or fall into oblivion, 'beat' Subject-Object-Metaphysics or replace it. It helps me to link the 'performativity thesis' to Pirsig's 'Metaphysics of Quality' as described in his book "Lila" (1991), which was a huge improvement on his MoQ as described in his better known "Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance". Both Subject-Object-Metaphysics and Metaphysics of Quality, both the performativity thesis and the idea that science can objectify/reify 'truth', are (in Pirsig's terminology) 'stable patterns of intellectual quality' which can be graded (and are evolutionary developed) as being relatively more 'dynamic' (flexible, innovative) than the patterns that (historically) preceded them. THE question is: will the performativity thesis prove to be more open to Dynamic Quality than verisimilitude theories. In other words: will we shift to thinking about 'truth' as 'that which performs best in the public arena' & 'that which creates the social reality that we prefer' rather than 'truth' simply 'is' 'representation of Reality'?
Toggle Commented Jan 24, 2016 on Against laws & "facts" at Stumbling and Mumbling
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Jan 24, 2016