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On the role of reflexivity in economic analysis

  • Anwar Shaikh

Soros' theory of reflexivity is meant to apply to a variety of social processes. In economics, it implies that many processes will be subject to "boom-bust" patterns in which expected outcomes deviate for a considerable time from the actual path, and that the actual path in turn deviates from the underlying fundamentals. This is in sharp contrast to the reigning notions in orthodox economics. The hypothesis of Rational Expectations (RE) requires that the views of all participants will converge to a "single set correct of expectations" and the Efficient Market Hypothesis (EMH) posits that actual outcomes deviate from equilibrium in a random manner save for occasional exogenous shocks. In this paper I show that Soros' argument is similar to the classical and Keynesian notions of equilibration as a turbulent process in which actual and expected variables gravitate around some fundamental value. But Soros makes the important further contribution of emphasizing that the fundamental value itself will generally be affected, but not fully determined, by (diverse) expectations and actual outcomes. I demonstrate that Soros' theory of reflexivity can be formalized and that the resulting system is stable in in the sense that expected and actual variables will gravitate around a possibly moving fundamental value. The paper ends with a discussion of an alternate economic paradigm in which the principle of reflexivity would be central.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1080/1350178X.2013.859414
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Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal Journal of Economic Methodology.

Volume (Year): 20 (2013)
Issue (Month): 4 (December)
Pages: 439-445

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Handle: RePEc:taf:jecmet:v:20:y:2013:i:4:p:439-445
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  1. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521368155 is not listed on IDEAS
  2. Anwar Shaikh, 2010. "Reflexivity, path dependence, and disequilibrium dynamics," Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, M.E. Sharpe, Inc., vol. 33(1), pages 3-16, October.
  3. George Soros, 2013. "Fallibility, reflexivity, and the human uncertainty principle," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 20(4), pages 309-329, December.
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