April 19, 2015

Economics vs Sociology

Comment on Lars Syll on ‘On dogmatism in economics’


You say: “... economics is a class ideology, not science.” This is certainly true for political economics but not for theoretical economics. The goal of theoretical economics is to explain how the economy works.

The crucial difference is this: “A genuine inquirer aims to find out the truth of some question, whatever the color of that truth. ... A pseudo-inquirer seeks to make a case for the truth of some proposition(s) determined in advance. There are two kinds of pseudo-inquirer, the sham and the fake. A sham reasoner is concerned, not to find out how things really are, but to make a case for some immovably-held preconceived conviction. A fake reasoner is concerned, not to find out how things really are, but to advance himself by making a case for some proposition to the truth-value of which he is indifferent.” (Haack, 1997, p. 1)

That thinking is normally determined by self-interest is not such a new insight. As a matter of fact, any thinking about society ends with some inner necessity at a conspiracy hypothesis (= all bad things are ultimately caused by an unknown but powerful entity. The Invisible Hand is only a variant of this kind of ‘explanation.’)

The crucial point is that economics deals not at all with society. This is the realm of sociology, psychology, anthropology, history, etcetera. Insofar as economics deals with behavioral assumptions like utility maximization, greed, power-grabbing, etcetera, it is a dilettantish variant of Psycho-Sociology.

Theoretical economics deals exclusively with the systemic behavior of the actual monetary economy.

Most economists have never understood their real task: they are doing PsySoc, not economics. Hence, they are outside of science before they even start to think.

Theoretical economics is objective. There are systemic laws but no behavioral laws. Systemic laws have the same methodological status as physical laws. The economist's task is to find these laws and not to waffle about human behavior and society.

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

Haack, S. (1997). Science, Scientism, and Anti-Science in the Age of Preposterism. Skeptical Inquirer, 21(6): 1–7. URL

See also the preceding post