Re: [OPE-L] SV: [OPE-L] SV: [OPE-L] SV: [OPE-L] SV: [OPE-L] RGASPI Russian archive

From: Alejandro Agafonow (alejandro_agafonow@YAHOO.ES)
Date: Tue Feb 05 2008 - 16:40:00 EST

Hello Martin.
Martin Kragh 05/02/2008: «Austrian economics have their own journals, and I suspect they have the same debate in their corner.»
Yes, Austrians have developed a very good insight on the equilibrium flaws of neoclassical economics and it has inspired me to build a trial and error method for Market Socialism far from the idealized equilibrium mania. In fact, market socialists like Fred Taylor, Abba Lerner, Evan Dirbin, Willet Roper and specially Henry Dickinson were able to translate the codified mathematical language of neoclassical economics in a pragmatic recipe for the marginal pricing rule, just that so much labelled in a utilitarian Benthamite fashion. And Austrians, so conservative after Ludwig von Mises, have taken advantage of this to undermine an egalitarian trend in economics.
Another thing that surprises me is that they have overlooked the parallel equilibrium model in Marxian transformation problem.
Yours sincerely,
Alejandro Agafonow

----- Mensaje original ----
De: Martin Kragh <Martin.Kragh@HHS.SE>
Enviado: martes, 5 de febrero, 2008 17:57:59
Asunto: [OPE-L] SV: [OPE-L] SV: [OPE-L] SV: [OPE-L] SV: [OPE-L] RGASPI Russian archive

Hi Alejandro,
Yes I agree, we can trace this argument back to Myrdal, or the still ongoing Korpi-Lindbeck debates. The point that is raised by Blaug has been raised by many historians of economic thought, for example David Colander, and it needs to be repeated as often as possible, since mainstream economists are, as a rule, completely a-historical. Blaug adopts a very evolutionary persepective which I find correct, the main stream is crowding out the aspects of its profession that do not produce any pecuniary results, or rather the ones that don't count (ranking, publishing). But this has not so much to do with ideology, and if it does, it has, as you point out, probably to do with lack of insight into that question. Most economists do not believe that there are any political implications in economic theorizing. The crowding out of pluralism is more likely a result of the way university education has been streamlined in Europe and the US. I note for example, that the
 Higher Economic Institute in Moscow offers a huge economic history program, and has three chairs in economic history. So the trend is not completely unilinear. In primarily America, some marxist economists have tried to adapt and shifted towards quantiative methods, though modest in numbers, they are bound by the same restraints as everybody else (and therefore adapt). Austrian economics have their own journals, and I suspect they have the same debate in their corner.    
What doctrinal studeis tell you however, and this is what I always repeat when teaching students, is that the main stream is by and large actually overthrown every once in a while (every new generation perhaps). When you then look for the reasons, we find that there are many historical, economic and political reasons for this change. But the reason most economists never get to this point is because they have never had to, in order to make a professional carreer. O contrario, historical awareness is counterproductive, since it takes time from other more urgent questions. This can probably continue until the profession makes itself obsolete, and funding becomes more problematic (as a matter of fact this is already starting to become a problem). For how long are our central banks going to expand their payrolls so that economists will not be unemployed? How many more working papers do they need?
Kind regards

Maybe your disagreement concerning “bourgeois economics” could be settled under the always problematic political element in economic analysis (Myrdal). In the Swedish context the controversy launched by Walter Korpi in The Economic Journal (Vol. 106, Nº 439) against Assar Lindbeck and the alleged biased Eurosclerosis’ thesis, could explain what is happening in virtually any leading economic school. Maybe the problem is not bourgeois economics but “mainstream economics” and the lack of methodological and doctrinal pluralism it supports.
Consider the following quotation of Mark Blaug: 
«Whatever we may say against technique-ridden, mathematically expressed modelling of economic phenomena, the fact remains that papers written in this form are easier to produce once the formula has been learned, and easier to appraise and referee than those written in words and diagrams. With 500 journals publishing quarterly, something like 10,000 papers in economics are published every year, which are refereed by perhaps 200-300 academics at the top American universities, whose students will become the referees of papers in the next generation, papers which will of course look very much like the papers they are now themselves writing and publishing. In other words, we have created a veritable professional locomotive with a built-in momentum that feeds continually on the pressure to publish in prestigious journals in order to gain employment in prestigious institutions whose annual salaries are more or less twice those that are earned in academic
 “Siberia.” To turn this locomotive around is to ask individuals at the beginning of their professional career to ignore the dominant fashion for economics papers and instead to write something unfashionable, like George Akerlof’s “Market for ‘Lemons’” (a paper that was turned down three times and took four years to finally reach publication), or like Ronald Coase’s “Theory of the Firm,” a paper totally neglected by the profession for a least two decades. Can we really believe that that is likely to happen on a scale significant enough to tip the balance?» (pp. 7. Mark Blaug, “Ugly Currents in Modern Economics”, Policy Options, September, 1997)
Kind regards,
Alejandro Agafonow

----- Mensaje original ----
De: Martin Kragh <Martin.Kragh@HHS.SE>
Enviado: martes, 5 de febrero, 2008 13:46:52
Asunto: [OPE-L] SV: [OPE-L] SV: [OPE-L] SV: [OPE-L] RGASPI Russian archive

Hi Dave,
Perhaps you are right, I wouldn't know. Tests have shown that students who finish their studies at the school are more egoistic and less risk averse than when they entered. But I'm not sure what that means, if it is due to the school, or some other factors as well. For example, the USSR was, by and large, the largest ideological apparatus for 70 years, but that did not prevent its citizens from protesting until the regime collapsed. I think students accept many of the things they are taught because they feel it is "common sense" stuff, that conforms with everyday experience and their intellect. (By the way one of the corner stones in the Scottish englightenment).   
The reason I ask in the first place is that professional economists in the mainstream most likely never think about questions on ideology in relation to their work, they are way to focused on their very narrow research field, and try to produce papers that journals will accept. There are teachers who are explicitly political, and in the case of SSE, right wing political, but they often have troubles with their colleagues. I think that in putting labels on things, such as a school (an institution as you say), one should try to use a terminology that your opponents can be lead to accept. And if you want to build a critique, one should do so from that point of view, otherwise very few will care to listen because they will feel alienated. If you tell people that they belong to a "bourgeois institution", and that that is the reason you don't care for what they do, this is a dead end street.  
As regards alternative places to study economics, it seems to me that there are fewer alternatives now than before to the particular economics institutions. This is an outrage, since it means fewer alternative versions of economics.
Kind regards

I'm sure economic studies and research is very good at the Stockholm
School of Economics. What I meant by "bourgeois institution" is that it is
an institution that reproduces a certain ideology: a set of beliefs about
what is good/bad, right/wrong, possible/impossible etc., that is
associated with the economic interests of the bourgeoisie. Similarly, the
educational organisations set up by the labour movement were
"working-class institutions".

C.f. the Althusserian concept of "ideological apparatuses".

//Dave Z

> Re: [OPE-L] SV: [OPE-L] RGASPI Russian archive    "
> I must say that I'm surprised that such research is conducted at the
> Stockholm School of Economics, arguably one of our most bourgeois
> institutions."
> Hi Dave,
> Perhaps a silly question, but what is a "bourgeois institution"? Earlier
> on this list, Paul C refered to bourgeois universities also, but I don't
> know exactly which ones qualify as such. Stockholm School of Economics
> (SSE) is, in my opinion, the leading school for economic studies and
> perhaps research, in Sweden. It has many flaws, but so has, say, Stockholm
> University, or any other college, as well. Just as other universities in
> Sweden no fee charged for studying there.
> Moshe Lewin is arguably one of the most prominent scholars, and his latest
> book, The Soviet Century in English translation, is a great book which
> summarizes not only his deep understanding of the Russian history, but
> obviously his great theoretical insights to the social organism of human
> societies as well. I agree that it is sketchy, but that makes it more
> accessible in another way (one can read selected chapters also) He actualy
> visited Stockholm School of Economics about two years ago, and I had the
> opportunity to have some drinks with him for a day ("Russian studies").
> There was a book published from this conference which might interest you,
> it is only in Swedish;
> Lennart Samuelson (red), Bönder och Bolsjeviker - Den ryska landsbygden
> historia 1902-1939, Stockholm: EFI 2007
> [Peasants and Bolsheviks - The history of the Russian countryside
> 1902-1939]
> Other featured authors are the late Viktor Danilov and Oleg Ken (who
> passed away only recently), and sociologist-historian Teodor Shanin, Elena
> Tiurina (author of a scholarly book on N. Kondratieff, director of the
> Russian State Archive of the Economy) and others. I don't have it in front
> of me, and I can't recall all the participants.
> By the way, in French there is a quite recent article by Moshe Lewin on
> the historical significance of the Russian revolution;
> Kind regards
> Martin

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