“First, Kill All the Economists …”

12 June 2006 at 2:36 pm 3 comments

| Nicolai Foss |

As regular readers of O&M will know, we are highly critical of the bashing of economics that is represented by recent work by  Pfeffer, Ghoshal, Mintzberg and others (e.g., this post).

One of our problems, amongst many, with the new management bashing of economics is that this literature appears to be wholly negative. There is usually at best vague indications of the nature of the critics' alternatives.

However, a recent special issue of Managerial and Decision Economics, while being highly critical of the role of econonomics in management research and education, at least tries to come up with an alternative.

The introductory essay of the editor, Satoshi Kanazawa, indicates the nature of the argument: The sub-title is "The Insuffiency of Microeconomics and the Need for Evolutionary Psychology in the Study of Management" (the title being identical to the adaptation of Shakespeare's "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers" (Henry IV) that is also the heading of this post).

The premises for the argument that evolutionary psychology needs to replace economics in management research and education is a number of, ehhhh, baffling claims, such as these: "For many years, economists have dominated the faculty of business and management schools" (p.95); "All actors [in economics] are assumed to have identical preferences" (p.96), and in particular this one: "The microeconomic model of the singular and unitary actor may have sufficed in the old days, when mostly men populated organizations as managers and employees as managers and employees, and most economic actors (buyers, sellers, principals, agents) were men. Despite some individual idiosyncracies, most men are more or less the same … At least their preferences can be assumed to be more or less the same; all men prefer more money to less" (p.96) (given the emphasis on evolutionary psychology I confess that I expected another argument in men's utility functions to be invoked!).

Thus, because women, who are "fundamentally,inherently, and irreconcilably different" from men, now populate organizations in large numbers, microeconomics has to be supplanted by evolutionary psychology!!  

Well, read for yourself. It is quite amusing. I am not sure, however, that econ-bashing in management is necessarily served by this alternative proposal.

Entry filed under: - Foss -, Management Theory.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. pj  |  12 June 2006 at 7:42 pm

    If he can show me a woman who prefers less money to more, it’ll be the first one I’ve met.

  • 2. T.Pettinger  |  24 January 2008 at 9:14 am

    I shall put “The Insuffiency of Microeconomics and the Need for Evolutionary Psychology in the Study of Management” on my reading list, – just below “A translation of Quantum mechanics rendered into ancient Sanskritt for the evolutionary Physicist”

    T.Pettinger
    Economics Help

  • […] Le papier de référence apparement pour cette thèse est un article de Ferraro, Pfeffer et Sutton paru en 2005 dans l’Academy Management Review (working paper ici) et qui est, ni plus ni moins, l’un des papiers les plus cités ces derniers années dans les travaux de management et de théorie des organisations. Ce papier s’inscrit dans ce qu’il convient d’appeler le “economists bashing” très à la mode dans les business studies aux Etats-Unis et dont Gizmo avait déjà parlé. On peut trouver des exemples sur le blog Organizations and Markets, blog tenu par des économistes qui publient dans des revues de gestion, et donc plutôt bien placés (voir ici, ici ou encore là). […]

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