Academic journal article World Review of Political Economy

The Power of Marx-Engels Scientific Research Program and Its Fulfilled Predictions: A Note on Heterodox Epistemology

Academic journal article World Review of Political Economy

The Power of Marx-Engels Scientific Research Program and Its Fulfilled Predictions: A Note on Heterodox Epistemology

Article excerpt

Abstract: Knowledge is an indicator of human development, and to contribute further knowledge to the interpretation of the legacy of Marx and Engels is the objective of this article. The relevant question in this theme is: Is the Marxian messagealive in the twenty-first century? This article in the fields of the history of economic thought and methodology outlines the vision of Marx-Engels in its economic, sociological and philosophical elements-chiefly the first of these. For that purpose, a description of their Scientific Research Program (SRP),a Lakatosian concept is outlined in the first section as a test of their theoretical soundness. Specifically the hard core of Marx and Engels' SRP is outlined in the second section along with a brief literature review of conceptions about the legacy of Marx and Engels' work. Marx's theory is thus systematically organized in terms of scientific research programs. In addition, both the positive heuristic and protective belt of Marx and Engels' SRP are outlined in the third section. Since a research program is an indicator of progress in science based on the empirical success of the theory in question, some fulfilled (and previously discredited) predictions of Marx and Engels' SRP are briefly mentioned in the fourth section.These interrelated methodological tasks test the argumentof the qualitative alivenessof the interdisciplinary message of Marx and Engels for all time, since the identification of theoretical soundness is the first step to test scientific progressiveness in a SRP. During the process some key concepts of Marx and Engels' SRP such as exploitation, alienation and surplus are reinterpreted under this perspective, proving their relevance in modern life. It is concluded from this exercise in the fifth section that Marx and Engels' SRP is sound and progressive in qualitative terms, although it was previously rejected on the basis of ideological, theoretical and practical misinterpretations. Finally, the complex system of Marx is discussed in the Appendix to undertake a further test of the former arguments. References and further reading are listed at the end of the article.

Keywords: Marx; Engels; history of economic thought; Lakatos; methodology; epistemology; Scientific Research Programs; complex systems

1. Methodological Introduction

Basic concepts of philosophy and economics

Science is clear, objective, rational, real, systematic and communicable knowledge about a field, which must be empirically tested vis-à-vis reality, and therefore possesses a dynamic character.

The goals of science are both explanation and prediction (Machlup 1978). Both apriorism and ultraempiricism are extreme strands in epistemology. According to apriorism, the abstraction of processes is the most relevant constituent of knowledge. According to ultraempiricism, both hypotheses and problem identification depart from observation. The distinction between these two approaches will allow the methodological assessment of the perspectives from which hypothesis formulation arises.

What is the relevance of methodology? In 1932 Joan Robinson addressed the question of whether economics is a serious subject. A serious subject in the academic sense, she claimed, "is neither more nor less than its own technique" (Robinson 1932: 3).

Other voices must be heeded. "Why should economists, or for that matter researchers of any kind, bother with methodology? The simple answer is because it is unavoidable. All research contributions carry methodological presuppositions. Decisions about whether or not to use data, to employ methods of econometrics or any other kind of mathematical modeling approach, to liait an empirical investigation once results of the form expected or hoped for are observed, to contrast results achieved with those of others, to emphasize explanatory power, predictive power, understanding or something else, to aim for generality, complexity, simplicity or parsimony, are all methodological" (Lawsonn. …

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