Economics and Ontology. III, the social domain

Publicado el 26/04/2006

In the last post about this topic I used Lucas 72 and Azariadis 81 to problematize the apparently obvious separation of deep structure and superficial regularities. Whatever the answer to this puzzle, Lawson takes this separation for granted and devotes his energies to try to discover this deep structure according to the trascental ontology he favours. Only after having done so can we espect to come up with some comments to these and other puzzles.

According to the many renderings of his position, including the one offered las week at the seminar he delivered in the UAM, the social domain is an emergent realm which depends on us and is made up of social groups, social rules and pratices within those groups. This social domain constitutes a closed system, intrisically dynamic and internaly related in the sense that any individual within the group is necessarilly situated in relation to others.

The implicatios are obvious. Individualism is not the appropiate methodology for Economics and the right question is never about the regularitis but rather about the departures from these apparent regularitis. It is this last fature what leeds Lawson to accept Akerloff´s market for "lemmons" article as an accepatble piece of Economics even if for almost everybody it is undoubtedly located at the very center od mainstream Economics.

But not only the implicatios are obvious. So are the remarks. First, this trascedental ontology seams very similar to undercurrents of both marxist and austrian economics and in fact Lawson claims to have found a sort of common ground for all unorthodox economic thinking, from old institutionalist to feminist economics. Second, this is not mere curiosity since it inmediatly prompts the question of intervention: do not intervene because you cannot control the unexpected consequences of the intervention or do intervene since you have apparently discovered an inmutable dialectical law. Third, the conexion of this latter point with the issue of "prediction" ought to be obvious since intervention can only be justified when prediction is more or less possible and accurate.

I do enjoy, probably out of my flare for disidence, the antiindividualist stance but I cannot help my being astonished as to the scarcity of "results" obtainable from this journey into ontological economics. Even if I was convinced, but only merely convinced, that the nature of of society was as depicted by Lawson , I will feel obliged to confront it to other possible descriptions. More important, it seams to me that if I wanted to say something specific ( and I see no reason why I should rennounce this wish) I would have to close the system, construct a model and use the deductive powers of mathematics to squeeze the juice out of it.

But may be Tony Lawson doesn´t really want to change or redirect Economics but rather he wants to change us, appealling to our awarnes of others and to the necessarilly direct contact with them beyond the arms length contact through the market.

Mre about this in the folowing post.