[lbo-talk] Mathematics and Formalism in Economics

Ismail Lagardien ilagardien at yahoo.com
Tue Aug 23 03:11:29 PDT 2011


My doctorate was in International Political Economy. It was an explanatory critique of Neo-Classical Economics as the basis for global governance and its inability to address recurrent systemic crises; market failure/financial crises, conflict (and state failure), increase in inequality, environmental destruction, discrepancies in access to knowledge and information and to justice and equity. The entry-point was the Global Public Goods (GPG) framework (which referenced the above "multi-dimensional" recurrent and systemic crises). My conclusions were, basically, that the best you could aspire to, within the Neo-Classical (liberal capitalist) framework was to manage the status quo of global inequality; that Global Public Good was simply the global transplantation of a national polity that (itself) was increasingly being undermined by the privatisation of public spaces.... 

It is quite alarming that within the GPG framework, the UNDP/World Bank/IMF envision a Neo-Classical approach to dealing with things like culture and heritage in the same way as they would address THINGS like lighthouses. Somewhere in the text they speak of "moonlight".... nothing, it seems, is beyond the reach of Economics rationalism. It's a big reification gumbo!

As an aside, there is an increased effort to privatise libraries and zoos in the US under the guise of "public-private" partnership.

Ismail Lagardien

Nihil humani a me alienum puto

________________________________ From: Mike Beggs <mikejbeggs at gmail.com> To: lbo-talk at lbo-talk.org Sent: Monday, 22 August 2011, 6:41 Subject: Re: [lbo-talk] Mathematics and Formalism in Economics

On Sun, Aug 21, 2011 at 7:18 PM, Ismail Lagardien <ilagardien at yahoo.com> wrote:

> This is from my secret life as a Critical Realist. I should provide an explanation, but the people on these lists are pretty savvy. Suffice to say, It has to do with the role and place (and actual/perceived necessity) of mathematics and formalism in economics. This was, actually, the philosophical basis of my doctorate. I would love to hear everyone's views.
> http://ineteconomics.org/video/conference-kings/mathematical-formalism-and-political-economic-content-duncan-foley

I watched this when the conference happened last year, so I'm hazy on the details but I think Foley is great. I read a great long interview with him recently (from one of those books of interviews by economists of economists... for economists (a genre with a whole Dewey Decimal to itself I'm sure)). I had no idea beforehand that he had a history in technical general equilibrium going back to the 1960s, before getting into Marx in the 1970s, or that he is considered quite respectable in mainstream economics for his work on complexity. He was radicalised by the Vietnam War then mesmerised by Capital. In the interview he laughs that his most cited journal article has been the one he wrote on the transformation problem, published in RRPE in 1982, which he says very few of his colleagues would have any idea about.

The whole interview is very interesting on his trials and tribulations as a leftist economist in and out of the Ivy League, and about how his ideas have evolved. In an aside, he mentions that Samuelson and Solow (who were his colleagues at MIT) felt more threatened by Arrow-Debreu general equilibrium theory than by Sraffa et al. I can send the pdf if you like.

What was your doctorate on, Ismail?

Mike Beggs

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