We are approaching economic theories with very different perspectives and commitments. Here are some points about this:
First: my main points in these strings are not about development and democracy. I know that you believe this is the most important topic, period. That is another topic and I disagree. It is one important topic. I've repeatedly stated this. I'll repeat that a number of times in this note. Other important topics include: The critique of the nature of economic theory, the critique of domination in neoliberal globalization and the theorizing about the potential of participatory economic democracy. These later topics have been my focus in the strings above. Your stance on the lack of association of democracy and welfare does not address the points I have been arguing in regards to ecnomic potentials in advanced capitalism.
I did point to one K5 article I wrote on development issues and you did not respond to that.
Second: A meta-point - Your last post is mostly an appeal to your authority and a dismal of alternative views. That is a step up from the many insults, a nasty ad hominem attack and weak argument style, in your previous posts here. This focus on your authority is still rhetorical posturing and does nothing to advance the discussion. You are attempting to defeat my points by both not addressing them and then by valuing your authority on the very topic that I critiqued in my first post -- the use of instrumental rationality at the base of economic theory. This mere brute assertion of authority is impressive to those not educated in statistics but it is rhetorically weak.
If you wish to counter my points about economic democracy in advanced capitalism and the critique of instrumental rationality, you have to address those head on. See the first 4 or 5 levels of my posts in these strings (and below) for some general approaches to those points.
Third: FYI - I happen to have extensive training in statistical methods (6 or 7 grad courses) and I have full time professional work experience (6 years) in quantitative and statistical data analysis in public health areas. Hence, I am very very familiar with quantitative methods and reasoning.
After my data analysis work, I returned for a phd in social science. I shifted from suing mainly quantitative methods to using mainly qualitative methods and case studies as these later reveal insights and generate much deeper understandings of social actions and meanings in institutional contexts. I have studied the sociology of science and technology (and of social science) and political economy and social theory as it impacts these in various social theory frameworks.
I find statistical modelling (which again I have run various types over and over in service of various research strategies) to be quite secondary to critical and social theories.
Here is a list of some of the theorists that I find useful for thinking about political-economy, as many o them usually fall outside the purview of conservative liberal economic training and study -- though they have very important views to consider. These theorists and thinkers include Marx, Kropotkin, Weber, Durkheim, Simmel, Horkheimer and Adorno, Habermas, Gramsci, Marcuse, C. Wright Mills, Murray Bookchin, Berger and Luckmann, Harry Braverman, Piven and Cloward, Latour, Gouldner, Foucault, Tilly, Goldstone, Giddens, Collins, Held, Castells, Hochschild, Richard Sennett, Deleuze and Guattari, Negri and Hardt, Nick Dyer-Witheford, Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Moishe Postone, and others. Also there are economic thinkers such as Boulding, Schumaker, Galbraith, Stiglitz, Sen, Michael Albert, and others. And, I also find popular thinkers like Hazel Henderson, Satin, Rifkin, Toffler, Walden Bello, Naomi Klein, and so on to be helpful.
Some of the above thinkers few are too pomo. A few are too 19th century. Most are too much this or too that. Most are not from the formal liberal economics side, but rather from the left economics side. All of the above still share very important insights about social actions and relationships and historical trends that are important to use in analyzing political-economic systems. My critique comes from those often very solid theory and research bases. The social science critique of liberal economic rationality and consideration of various alternatives (be they welfare, parecon, market socialism, natural capitalism, whatever) are fundamentally important to a good future society.
Why mention all these thinkers? These people bring important approaches to the economic debates.
If you have not studies all of the above, your claim to have studied all the useful economic theories is quite off base. No one can study all of these in perspectives depth. Hence, there is a need for dialog across different theories. But, one can know a number of these in depth.
Fourth: So, I am not a junior intellectual effort to you. I am in another field. You are an economist. That's great. It is very good that you look at various economic theory and data. I am a social researcher. I do the same with multiple social research methods. As noted, I have extensive training and extensive work experience in various quantitative analysis methods. I find qualitative and case study methods to shed more light on the connections amongst various social factors. So, that is what I focus on today.
Fifth: So, I am well aware of how statistical and instrumental reason can be twisted and abused in various ways. The studies of the conditions for democratic and moral discourse and relationships and communicative rationality are fundamentally important to a good society. Engaging these conditions deliberatively underlies any just and equitable social interaction system, including economic systems. Such communicative rationality concepts (treating others as subjects from the get go--participatory reciprocal relationships) are also relevant to criticizing theoretical postures such as yours in this string. We could go into the critique of bureaucratic and instrumental rationality and its oppressive uses if you want: starting with Marx and moving to Mills and Baverman and Habermas and on to Latour and Woolgar and others. More interesting still would be the discussion liberating, critical, or communicative reason, but that is Frankfurt school stuff or hey, third generation feminist theory stuff or hey autonomist Marxist stuff, and you have stated you are not interested in that.
So, a main point of my original post at the stop of this string has yet to emerge in your response -- the critique of instrumental rationality. I'd like to reintroduce that. There is an underlying counter-assumption that you make: that statistical analysis of economic trends is the way to resolve economic debates. No, this is my challenge: philosophical debate and criticism is the way to address the meaning and value of social systems of which economic systems are one part. But, you seem to reject the interdisciplinary thinking involved when it touches on cultural and philosophical issues.
Here is a summary (I jotted 5 or so years ago) of one approach to a critique of objective scientific reason. Latour's approach is a little too social constructionist for me as a study of physical science (which I think do describe objective reality) but Latour's approach is correct in regard to the social sciences:
Bruno Latour in _Science in Action_ takes a radically social constructionist and partly socio-cultural movements perspective on science and technology. Latour shows how science cultivates knowledge, rather than uncovering objective facts. Latour proposes an ethnomethodolgical (read cultural-story-inquiry) method in which the first step is to suspend use of normal social and philosophical categories in the study of the practice of science. (Which is perhaps possible only if there are alternative views to hold.) His second and main step is to study science in action: Who practices it and gathers the resources, and where and how it is practiced. Latour dissolves the boundaries of some traditional oppositions in modern sciences: Use of ideas and artifacts, subjectivity and objectivity, social and pure interests. Science does not only present us with highly debatable theoretical maps of the objective world which sometimes change fundamentally from generation to generation and sometimes become the conceptual bedrock of future assumptions, science is made by scientists who are driven by practical interests and supported by networks of cultural associations which frame and ground the social construction of tools and theories. (That is: All science is subject to bias. Scientists introduce bias in various ways in their use of theories, methods and in their reporting of findings. This bias is often shaped (marketed) to suit the interests of those commanding the activity of scientific research -- be it the military, commerce these days or government grants. Latour cites various rather surprising statistics about the level of fudging, error, and outright deception (30%, 40% and the like) published in various scientific reports and journals. Note: there was a recent study about extensive statistical errors in Nature and British Journal of Medicine. On top of this, in many fields, there is a tendency to not publish studies with negative findings -- creating a the statistical error of over-reporting positive findings.)
Beyond scientific rhetoric and the mystified celebration of mathematical methods, for Latour, the cause of society's and nature's stability, objectivity, is the result of a settled controversy, not of discovering truth. So, one can not look at hard objective social or natural categories (which categories were originally constructed) and deduce conclusions of arguments from them. (You can use apples to do math but you can't use math to make apples! Well, maybe applesauce.) To understand science, one must study the construction and alignment of subjective interests -- which when in retrospect is the story of the making science. In practice, techniques and laboratories are not separate from scientific claims. Technology and science together are a social practice. After enrolling and weaving together as many resources as possible, science is objectivized by redefining responsibility for this construction as an idea discovered.
So, a key insight is here. The manufacture of scientific facts is mediated through language, tools, and techniques -- all intersubjective constructions. Hence, to understand science, we need to understand the sociology and linguistics of science. Maps are not separate from their use or from the tools that are extended to make them or from practices of interpretation. In short, again, objectivity is created and grounded in inter-subjective practice. (As is subjectivity.) And not only are the inside and outside, the subjective meanings and objective work, of creating science not separate in practice, for Latour, hard science is the most connected to society of all scientific practice. So, just as maps are reflective (or mirroring) and constructive, science is reflective and constructed and constructive of lived social contexts. Quite practically so...
Looking simply at where resources come from and go to, the majority of hard science this century has been supported by resources addressing military aims and health industry aims. These two arenas are focused on survival of the social body and physical body. More recently, information technology has become a major source of investment and technique -- meriting consideration of a fundamental shift in our culture and economy from politico-bio-maintenance to communication. The marshaling of cultural resources in science is a potent theme in Latour's project. It is quite intriguing for the future of social theory to consider how as the economy becomes more virtually negotiated, if social construction perspectives will become more liminal and reflected in social commentary, perhaps enabling an expanded use of social theories and inviting more intricately critical theories associated with sophisticated liberating practices.
The radicalness of Latour's project is to propose that it is not necessary to attribute qualities to the mind , the world or a method, but that one may first inspect how subjective records such as inscriptions, or significations, are gathered, combined, and tied together -- the rhetoric and practices of science. His conclusion is that a study of mobilization of interests and inscriptions goes a very long way to explain most reality claims. It is enough to tell the story! This seems to invite a radical relativism. Yet, Latour says that one must use the languages of both realism (objectivity) and relativism (radical subjectivity) in talking about Science. For! Scientists use both languages -- objectivity for settled controversies and relativistic stances for their ongoing debates. This contrast is found in Latour's work itself. Perhaps, given Latour's openness to varying reality stories, and sociologies, it is quite a bit ironic that he elevates one particular method -- social inquiry into resources, interests, practices and lexicon -- as the way to start in understanding science. Perhaps this irony is intentional, given the reflexive self-critical comments in Latour's work: he is a bit of self-conscious in elevating a beautifully formed theory of social construction to canonical status in his own work (see the methods appendix to _Science in Action_). Yet, why not out and out advocate a pluralistic approach and compare the results of various lines of inquiry? This point is an old problem in theories of knowledge: Do theories apply to themselves?
So, the above can be applied to economics and any social science. We need to see what are the stakes and interests in economic theories. For instance, in studying development economics, we also need to be aware of how conservative academics leverage liberal economic theory for the interests of various transnational capitalist corporations and the IMF in forwarding neoliberalism -- and yes how leftists economic theorists react to that.
Why go into all of the above? It is at this level of epistemological critique that I think we have a conflict. I critiqued the biases and abuses in the instrumental rationality of economics (based on very sound theory from Habermas). You have kept putting forward that this very instrumentally based approach to economic theory is the way to understand economics (in a sphere I have not been talking about) and rule out the possibility of critique if one does not have expertise in your area and share your presuppositions. We need to discuss knowledge claims, social science methods and underlying assumptions at this point. But, you have repeated said you are not into such interdisciplinary reflections. If this is really so, perhaps we don't have much to talk about. I am doing an epistemological critique. You are holding to the potency of the methods of your form of capitalist friendly economics, while rejecting leftist critiques within economics and the meta-critique.
[And yes: I do have dozens and dozens of fragments like the general framing of issues above which I am going to have to use to flesh out my case as I am short on time. Some of the theory fragments are more specific to the case of critiquing economics.]
Sixth: You offer some references. Nice. However, William Easterly looks issues such as how bad government can keep developing countries trapped in poverty cycles. This is the debate about development again. So, this reference misses the point again. Yet, on the other hand, this is a reference to the interaction of politics and economy. You seem to be selective about which interdisciplinary approaches you accept as worthy of being connected with economics. Those that support your thesis of the autonomy of economics, fine: Let 'em in. From what I've read, it is probable Sen and Stiglitz have more to say about our possible democratic and sustainable futures than Easterly.
Seventh: While my main topic in this strings is not studying economic theory of development, two things: I do agree with you that the economics of development is very important for achieving sustainable way of life on our planet (noting that economic innovations which really impact the global scene are likely to come in advanced economies, including such sectors yes in developing countries). I also agree that the study of the association of democracy and economic development, of which you mention a study, is interesting. It is aside from my main points again.
Eighth: You seem to reject Stiglitz and Sen's more general works and their views too? These works are where they depart from formal economic theory and embrace and use philosophy and social science. Do you dismiss as well the more cultural work of Marx, Weber, Mills, and Smith? All did work in both economic and cultural theory. Deep social thinkers look at how societies systems interact *and* and at what motivates them in meanings and values.
Ninth: Yes, Sen's book is an editorial -- or a long essay on values, philosophy, political, economical and cultural forces. It is for a general audience. Various other deep thinkers on the economy have mixed such -- Marx, Weber, Mills, etc. Some of their works are still exemplary (though methods and concepts need to be critique) -- a 100 years later -- because of their profound genius. It is good for the principles in these works and those like the most gifted political-economic thinkers of today, like Sen and Stiglitz, to be debated and not dismissed.
Tenth: However, you write about Sen, "But lets look real quick at Development as Freedom is it provactive, sure. Does it have an application: not a bit. Sorry, it doesn't."
Excuse me! Sen describes applications. Your pronouncement from the depths of your involvement in economics have missed a profoundly obvious truth. Sen is describing the application of rationality to maximizing various freedoms in modern liberal democracies -- and how economic relations is but one part of that. The applications of value and philosophy to economic theory is for expanding freedom not for maximizing profit -- and if we follow through on these values, it will changes how we shape our politics and cultural systems to shape our economies and yes vice-versa. The history of western culture for 200 years has been about the expansion of various freedoms. So, Sen links this to economics. Positive and negative freedoms are both important. They are very present in modern society. These issues are at the center of what it is to have a good life.
Humanists like these thinkers pursue social justice and freedom and democracy for the principles of these -- if it costs more, it is up for a society to choose those or other social goods -- and they would do so most usually. These goods is not as efficient as some types of capitalism at extracting profit, but they are more meaningful.
We evaluate these issues through considering the interplay values and principles in everyday life and social context. Essays are a good way to do that. Here are some social science ways to analyze these issues (that are superior to statistical analysis -- for the study of meaning and value in informing social and institutional action): Case studies of the complex interactions of various social systems are one way (macro breadth). Multi-dimensional analyses of one slice of causal interactions in institutional processes are another way (macro depth). In-depth personal interviews is another at an individual level (individual depth). Participant observation of social behavior across various systems is another at a inter-personal level (individual breadth). Integrating case studies and biographies and participation in methods are ideal. These qualitative and combined methods (that can draw on intense statistical models) are much preferable to most of liberal economic theory.
In rather arrogantly on the basis of hard care economic theory or not throwing out Sen and Stiglitz's popular and yet theoretically wide-ranging and valuable books, you are not only not addressing their main points which connect to my main arguments, you are missing the variety of ways in which these seminal thinkers are extending economic thinking from a sterile science into being a rich social science with an economic focus.
So. You have stated repeatedly your disregard for the use of interdisciplinary discourse on economic topics (how convenient a way to marginalize my original criticisms of instrumental rationality in economics). An now you reject Stiglitz and Sen, who, like Frankfurt critical theorists (who do this type of deep analysis better than the forays of Sen and Stiglitz, quite arguably), bring to bear critical thought on moral principles and the pursuit of value, democracy and freedom in society. To trot out that such principles may or may not have a connection to economic development in developing countries or in the history of capitalism is to miss the point. The point is our values and principles shape our politics and laws and institutional cultures which shape how we will shape a more democratic future. As economic democracy has not been tried (the socialism of the 20th century was not that), we are left with analyzing small demonstration projects and a few networks here and there across history and emergent tendencies in late capital, of which there are a number now -- see previous notes and references.
Eleventh: So, if you persist in staying stuck on the development theme, there is not much to talk about in terms of economic democracy -- which I am proposing (based on the historical record) mostly likely requires political democracy in advanced or somewhat advanced industrial societies. Sorry if I am really beat the topic to death by repetition but you consistent ignore it.
If you want to talk about purchasing power parity, OK. I'd rather not get off topic (this was one of your development tangents) so I glossed over it in the same way you have: With a declaration of truth (Stiglitz glosses over the $1/day issue in much the same way -- grand hand waving in place of argument -- seems to be a favorite of economists). This kind of rules out dialog, huh? However, to discuss PPP, in terms of a critique of rationality (as an epistemological exercise -- though it is much more than that) would be interesting, because one would have to look out how different PPP calculations could slant the interpretation of poverty and basic needs/resources being met one way or the other. And, why do liberal economists favor some particular way of framing PPPs and not others? And are there not problems in relating PPPs across cultures? As noted by Sen, what is really needed is an evaluation of quality of life and freedoms across various social domains.
Finally: You have thrown in some marginalizing statements along with your self praise in this last post. Both weaken your position SINCE.... Yet again: You have managed to bypass yet again a main point of my discussions again: my focus is on economic democracy in advanced capitalism. That is much more likely in the many-to-many communication systems and network structures evolving in advanced industrial societies and those developing societies with advanced industrial sectors, such as China, India, and Brazil.
If you do wish to address the points in the origin of this string such as the discussion of the critique of reason and the possibility democratic economic relations, great. I'll give it one more try. If you throw out insults again and redirect to your area of interest in development economics, I will regard you as being stuck in your position and blind to discourse.
This post lays out where I think it would be fruitful to engage the topics from the start of these strings. I don't have much time. I am sorry if this is a bit redundant in places -- quite busy this weekend. I actually don't think we are going to have a productive dialog. But, I'll give it another try or two, if you respond with something of substance.
It would forward matters if you would pick one point or two of my general line of reasoning and mount a counter-critique. We both might learn something then. For instance, this claim of the convergence of development thinkers you made a few posts ago (which is not relevant to general points) and is very much not the case -- why try that tactic? Rather, let's examine perhaps the abuse of reason? No. That would involve perspectives from various social sciences and philosophy. So...
Let's get focused on the basic issues or let's drop it for another time -- when you might be more inclined perhaps to debate alternative socio-economic theories.
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