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Schools of Thought in the Republic of Social Science


  • Robert Garnett

    () (Department of Economics, Texas Christian University)


In an incisive analysis of academic tribalism, Stephen Balch (2004) argues that schools of thought can be catalysts or barriers to disciplinary inquiry, depending on the institutional setting. He cites physics, chemistry, and mathematics as fields in which competing schools of thought generally enhance the marketplace of ideas by increasing the scope and value of intellectual exchange (ibid., 2). Balch deems these disciplines “collegial” because, though “rivalries exist among hypotheses and investigators, there is general agreement on the means of resolving them and a strong sense of shared intellectual mission” which enable “internalized checks” to “keep things on the straight and narrow” (ibid., 4). By contrast, Balch describes the social sciences and humanities as “adversarial disciplines” in which paradigmatic rivalries “shade into enmities, bear heavily on methods of verification as well as the substance of disputes, involve judgments of value as well as of fact, often reveal an absence of shared mission, and produce results whose employment outside academe is very frequently polemical” (ibid., 4). In these contexts, schools become impediments to “serious academic discourse about the human condition” (ibid., 2) as the collegial ideal of a “free and open marketplace of ideas” (ibid., 1) gives way to balkanized disciplines “divided into enduring factions whose partisans frequently treat their opponents more as foes than colleagues” (ibid., 4).

Suggested Citation

  • Robert Garnett, 2011. "Schools of Thought in the Republic of Social Science," Working Papers 201108, Texas Christian University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:tcu:wpaper:201108

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Levy, David M. & Peart, Sandra J., 2009. "Sympathy, evolution, and The Economist," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 71(1), pages 29-36, July.
    2. Geoffrey Hodgson, 2002. "Visions of Mainstream Economics: A Response to Richard Nelson and Jack Vromen," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 60(1), pages 125-133.
    3. Peter Boettke, 2004. "Obituary. Don Lavoie (1950-2001)," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 11(3), pages 377-379.
    4. Daniel Klein, 2001. "Plea to Economists Who Favor Liberty: Assist the Everyman," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 27(2), pages 185-202, Spring.
    5. McCloskey,Deirdre N., 1994. "Knowledge and Persuasion in Economics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521436038, March.
    6. Roger Koppl, 2011. "Against representative agent methodology," The Review of Austrian Economics, Springer;Society for the Development of Austrian Economics, vol. 24(1), pages 43-55, March.
    7. McCloskey,Deirdre N., 1994. "Knowledge and Persuasion in Economics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521434751, March.
    8. Peter Boettke, 2011. "Cultivating constructive discourse over economics and public policy," The Review of Austrian Economics, Springer;Society for the Development of Austrian Economics, vol. 24(1), pages 67-70, March.
    9. Harpham, Edward J., 2000. "The Problem of Liberty in the thought of Adam Smith," Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Cambridge University Press, vol. 22(02), pages 217-237, June.
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