Is Economics Science?

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With the start of a new year, we have made two subtle editorial shifts. The first, and the theme of this issue, is to increase the emphasis on the relationship between economics and science. The second is to explore the challenge of resting economics on accounting, which will be done on a regular basis under the pen of Stephen Torr in Accounting Backdrop, a new feature replacing Victor’s View from Rare Albion.

The topic – Is economics science? – is suggested by discussions in the world of ‘social economics’ as to the difference between social and financial profit, visible and invisible phenomena, values and price, ideas and chairs.

The theme is prompted by the continuing questioning of students and some professors of the huge bias of modern economics towards positivism. This problem is given essential expression in this month’s Sign of Our Time/Back to Square One, a discussion of the nature of modern economics by Valeria Mosini of the London School of Economics. The question is posed as to whether it is a matter of preferring induction over deduction (or vice versa), or of transcending both?

The link, forced or otherwise, between economics and the physical sciences is taken up in More Heat than Light, a review of the work of Philip Mirowski by David Gordon. One can see here the effect of dominant metaphors, which left unchecked and unmodified against experience, can cause a schism between the (economic) world and one’s theorising about it.

Treated from an associative point of view, the subject is then backgrounded by a piece by Rudolf SteinerHow to think economically – on the merits (or otherwise) of inductive and deductive reasoning and the need, instead, for characterisation and description.

In Science and Imagination, Christopher Houghton Budd updates this consideration in link with today’s ongoing global financial crisis. His argument is that it is disingenuous to oppose rather than marry up science and imagination and considers the use that can be made of poetry and hypothesis.

In a similar vein, the AEX Page takes as its theme the use of poetry and imagination. Featuring posts on ageing money and Greece.

Finally Accounting Backdrop takes a look at inductive approaches to accounting theory and what this method can help reveal about economics, either through providing specific insights or its inability to do so. The focus then turns to the benefits of sharing the descriptions of multiple individuals’ activities and how these can then be co-ordinated through the use of spreadsheets and budgets.

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