Monday 16 Jul 2018 | 08:40 | SYDNEY
Monday 16 Jul 2018 | 08:40 | SYDNEY

Economics at a tipping point

9 September 2010 09:06

Matt Hill is an intern in the Lowy Institute's Global Issues program. A New Zealand Freyberg Scholar, he recently completed a Master's in Strategic Studies at the ANU.

While I'd agree broadly with Sam's taxonomy of intellectual enquiry, perhaps the concept of 'progressive' knowledge could use clarification. Might I suggest consideration of Thomas Kuhn's idea of scientific 'paradigm shifts'' As opposed to a purely linear improvement in human understanding, with each new observation contributing to the edifice of knowledge, Kuhn saw 'hard' scientific progress as occasionally generating new discoveries that would contradict the structure's fundamental assumptions.

These contradictions would pile up, until their sheer magnitude lent weight to enterprising new theories that would lead to a wholesale reconstruction and reconfiguration, not just of the discipline itself, but of the discourse which framed it.

Might this more complicated conception of 'hard', 'progressive', or 'objective' knowledge have implications for the debate over the epistemic status of economics' Rather than regarding the recent wave of criticism against the state of economics as damning evidence of the abstract, relative nature of its judgements, it is possible that they represent a tipping point of a paradigm shift.

If a scientifically 'progressive' economics does in fact exist behind the contradictions exposed by the GFC, then recognising the failures of existing economic concepts might in fact be the first step towards more effective theory, and by extension, policy.