Academic journal article The Journal of Philosophical Economics

The 'Desire for Money:' Aristotelian Blind Spot in the Field of Economics? A French Heterodox Point of View

Academic journal article The Journal of Philosophical Economics

The 'Desire for Money:' Aristotelian Blind Spot in the Field of Economics? A French Heterodox Point of View

Article excerpt

Abstract: If the field of economics has today become the archetype for determinism in the social sciences, it comes at the price of a form of objectivity founded on the complex process of the reduction and naturalization of a certain type of social relation, a process best described via the real approach or the 'approach by value.' A radical critique of this process requires the deconstruction of this dominant approach, characterized by the articulation of neoclassical theory and economic liberalism. It is only once the repression of the desire for money, a repression constitutive of false economic objectivity, has been denounced that the standard model can then be subject to such a critique. This will in turn open the possibility of an economic theory which is radically anti-naturalist.

Keywords: naturalism, real approach, monetary approach, desire for money

Introduction: an internal critique of the standard model [1]

That the field of economics has today become the archetype for determinist thought in the social sciences is indisputable, whatever one's attitude towards this development (Van Parijs 1990 and Lazear 2000). One possible attitude is that of external critique through the use of sociopolitical types, as attempted within the domain of the sociology of economic science (Lebaron 2000) that it is say, a critique through explanatory factors external to the functioning of the academic field in question. However controversial this move, in seeking through public debate to put the economy in its place, it never really gets to the core of the conceptual system of economism. This article offers an internal critique of economism from a mainly epistemological perspective. It is certainly not the only or even the first attempt to do this. Without presenting an exhaustive review of the academic literature on this problem, we will merely make reference to the works stemming from 'critical realism' (Lawson 1997). The perspective that we will develop here is different, but complementary. It is different because it does not draw upon analytical philosophy but instead relies on post-structuralist philosophy, [2] which we seek to link here to the critique of political economy. It is complementary because it also aims to defend the development of a heterodox institutionalist economics to oppose the dominant economism of the standard paradigm.

As we will show, the logic behind economism is deeply rooted, feeding the very form of objectivity which determines the way economics grasps the phenomena which fall within its purview. Critical studies, arising principally from heterodox epistemology, have already demonstrated the manner in which this objectivity is constructed, with varying degrees of explicitness, via a complex process involving the reduction, neutralization and universalizing of certain historically determined social relations. These relations subsequently take on an economic character, one which aspires to the same ontological level as the 'physico-chemical' nature of the so called 'exact' sciences.[3] Once this objectivity has been taken for granted, the dominant mode of the conceptualization of economic reality represented by neo-classical theory can put itself, 'naturally' as it were, to work. This involves the production not only of knowledge and expertise, but also of a normative argument which puts forward a model of social organization, economic liberalism, as the most faithful expression of the essence of economic reality. The task which the critique must set itself, as the epistemological precondition to all heterodoxy, is the deconstruction of that which underlies this process: the analytical-normative coupling of neo-classical theory with economic liberalism.

Heterodox studies have already taken on this task (De Vroey 2002) without, however, in our opinion, arriving at the point of an internal critique. To take this necessary further step we will make the case for a more radical hypothesis, set out in this article in concise form. …

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