Equilibrium versus Understanding: Towards the Restoration of Economics as Social Theory

By Mark Addleson | Go to book overview

12

INVESTMENT DECISIONS

To fail to bring the planning stage to the surface…allows, by default, the emergence of the view that the large organisation operates under a single planning mind, and, by not looking into the nature of the organisation’s authority relationships, allows to persist, if it does not propagate, authoritarian views of a very naïve order. The persistent ‘he will adjust his output…’, he will do this and he will do that, coming from teachers and students alike, is extremely irritating and provoking to anybody who has made a disciplined inquiry into these matters.

(Thirlby 1973:206)


THE ISSUES

Kenneth Boulding describes the neoclassical firm as ‘a strange bloodless creature without a balance sheet, without any visible capital structure, without debts’ (quoted in Penrose 1959:11, n. 2). These are not mere gaps in neoclassical theory, which can be filled. Their absence betrays a fatal affliction of the third-person perspective: its complete indifference to people’s histories or social circumstances, as a way of understanding their situations, revealing their social obligations and commitments, and thus of explaining their activities and their decisions. The seeds of a plan, while they ‘look forward’ in a sense, also refer to a past: to how things have been going, to ongoing responsibilities, and to contractual obligations. This is an area in which the third-person perspective is utterly misleading. The agent of neoclassical theory is constrained only by his ‘budget’, which requires him to tailor his ‘choices’ in the face of the prices imposed by the activities of others. Whatever he does, there is always a huge range of options open to him. By implication, with each ‘decision’ the agent begins with a clean slate. 1

In order to gauge the potential for a conceptual framework involving a first-person perspective to address problems of planning and decision-making, I must show that it is practical to gain an understanding of how decision-makers understand those problems in which we, the theorists and

-195-

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Equilibrium versus Understanding: Towards the Restoration of Economics as Social Theory
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Figures ix
  • Acknowledgements x
  • Part 1 1
  • Introduction 3
  • 1 - Two Languages of Economic Theory 13
  • 2 - Neoclassical Methodology 34
  • 3 - The Practices of Neoclassicists 52
  • 4 - On Subjectivism 68
  • 5 - Interpretative Understanding 79
  • 6 - Austrian Economics and Subjectivism 97
  • 7 - Implications of Interpretative Understanding 116
  • Part 2 133
  • 8 - Models of Industrial Location 135
  • 9 - Location Theory as a Narrative 155
  • 10 - Decisions About Things in the World 170
  • 11 - Plans and Decisions as Understanding 182
  • 12 - Investment Decisions 195
  • 13 - Understanding and Locations 213
  • 14 - Retrospect and Prospect 231
  • Notes 241
  • References 266
  • Index 288
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