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Economics Imperialism versus Multidisciplinarity


  • John B. Davis

    () (Marquette University and University of Amsterdam)


This paper examines the explicit and implicit arguments in Chicago School economist Edward Lazear’s 2000 defense of economics imperialism using standard international trade theory. It associates that defense with interdisciplinarity, or the idea that the social sciences are relatively autonomous, but argues that this defense functions as a mask for a more conventional imperialist strategy of promoting Chicago School neoclassicism. Lazear’s argument also created a dilemma for Chicago regarding how it could espouse interdisciplinarity while actually operating in a contrary way. I argue that the solution to this dilemma was for mainstream economics to rebuild economics imperialism around a performative conception of neoclassicism as a theory that always sees the world in its own image. This strategy, however, suffers from a number of problems, which upon examination ultimately lead us to multidisciplinarity, or the idea that the sciences can have transformative effects on one another. This latter conception can be associated with a complexity economics approach as an alternative view of the relation between the sciences. The paper argues that this view provides a basis for pluralism in economics.

Suggested Citation

  • John B. Davis, 2016. "Economics Imperialism versus Multidisciplinarity," History of Economic Ideas, Fabrizio Serra Editore, Pisa - Roma, vol. 24(3), pages 77-94.
  • Handle: RePEc:hid:journl:v:24:y:2016:3:4:p:77-94

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    Cited by:

    1. Dieter Bögenhold, 2020. "History of Economic Thought as an Analytic Tool: why Past Intellectual Ideas Must Be Acknowledged as Lighthouses for the Future," International Advances in Economic Research, Springer;International Atlantic Economic Society, vol. 26(1), pages 73-87, February.
    2. Dieter Bögenhold, 2017. "Social-scienciation of Economics and its Consequences: On a Relative Convergence between Economics and Sociology," STOREPapers 3_2017, Associazione Italiana per la Storia dell'Economia Politica - StorEP.
    3. Andrea Salanti, 2020. "All That Glitters Is Not Gold: The Case of Mainstream Pluralism," Annals of the Fondazione Luigi Einaudi. An Interdisciplinary Journal of Economics, History and Political Science, Fondazione Luigi Einaudi, Torino (Italy), vol. 54(2), pages 287-310, December.
    4. Dieter Bögenhold, 2017. "The order of social sciences: sociology in dialogue with neighbouring disciplines," The Journal of Philosophical Economics, Bucharest Academy of Economic Studies, The Journal of Philosophical Economics, vol. 11(1), pages 27-52, November.

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