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Heterodox economics, social ontology, and the use of mathematics

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  • Mark Setterfield

    () (Department of Economics, New School for Social Research)

Abstract

In a recent article (Lawson, 2013), Tony Lawson argues for a Veblenian interpretation of the term “neoclassical”, according to which a neoclassical economist is one whose methodology is at odds with their ontological presuppositions. This leads him to categorize many heterodox economists as neoclassical on the basis that their use of mathematical modeling is at odds with their (implicit) acceptance of an open-systems ontology. The reason is that, according to Lawson, mathematical modeling is deductivist: it presupposes that social systems are closed. The argument advanced in this paper is that this last claim is true only some of the time, and problematic only some of the time that it is true. It therefore amounts to a defense of mathematical modeling by heterodox economists that is, at the same time, sympathetic to Lawson’s claims that the social realm is structured but open and that this ontology is (implicitly) accepted by many heterodox economists.

Suggested Citation

  • Mark Setterfield, 2015. "Heterodox economics, social ontology, and the use of mathematics," Working Papers 1503, New School for Social Research, Department of Economics, revised May 2015.
  • Handle: RePEc:new:wpaper:1503
    as

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    File URL: http://www.economicpolicyresearch.org/econ/2015/NSSR_WP_032015.pdf
    File Function: First version, 2015
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Mark Setterfield, 2007. "Are Functional Relations Always the Alter Ego of Humean Laws?," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 19(2), pages 203-217.
    2. Marc Lavoie, 2007. "Endogenous Money: Accommodationist," Chapters,in: A Handbook of Alternative Monetary Economics, chapter 2 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    3. Tony Lawson, 1994. "The Nature of Post Keynesianism and Its Links to Other Traditions: A Realist Perspective," Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(4), pages 503-538, July.
    4. Mark Setterfield, 2014. "An essay on horizontalism, structuralism and historical time," Working Papers 1402, Trinity College, Department of Economics.
    5. Mark Setterfield, 1997. "Should Economists Dispense with the Notion of Equilibrium?," Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 20(1), pages 47-76, September.
    6. Tony Lawson, 2006. "The nature of heterodox economics," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 30(4), pages 483-505, July.
    7. Sheila C. Dow, 2007. "Endogenous Money: Structuralist," Chapters,in: A Handbook of Alternative Monetary Economics, chapter 3 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    8. Setterfield, Mark, 1998. "Adjustment Asymmetries and Hysteresis in Simple Dynamic Models," The Manchester School of Economic & Social Studies, University of Manchester, vol. 66(3), pages 283-301, June.
    9. Chick, Victoria & Dow, Sheila C, 2001. "Formalism, Logic and Reality: A Keynesian Analysis," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 25(6), pages 705-721, November.
    10. Lawson, Tony, 1995. "The 'Lucas Critique': A Generalisation," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 19(2), pages 257-276, April.
    11. Tony Lawson, 2013. "What is this 'school' called neoclassical economics?," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 37(5), pages 947-983.
    12. Kregel, J A, 1976. "Economic Methodology in the Face of Uncertainty: The Modelling Methods of Keynes and the Post-Keynesians," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 86(342), pages 209-225, June.
    13. Chick, Victoria, 1998. "On Knowing One's Place: The Role of Formalism in Economics," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 108(451), pages 1859-1869, November.
    14. Veblen, Thorstein, 1900. "The Preconceptions of Economic Science III," History of Economic Thought Articles, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, vol. 14.
    15. Mark Setterfield, 2000. "Expectations, Endogenous Money, and the Business Cycle: An Exercise in Open Systems Modeling," Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 23(1), pages 77-105, September.
    16. Dany Lang & Mark Setterfield, 2007. "History versus equilibrium? on the possibility and realist basis of a general critique of traditional equilibrium analysis," Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, M.E. Sharpe, Inc., vol. 29(2), pages 191-209, January.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Mathematical modeling; social ontology; open systems; critical realism; heterodox economics;

    JEL classification:

    • B41 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Economic Methodology
    • B50 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - General
    • C02 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - General - - - Mathematical Economics

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