Pomo Periscope VII: Are We All Pomos Now?

2 January 2007 at 2:27 pm Leave a comment

| Nicolai Foss |

As I noted in the first post in the Pomo Periscope series, pomo is increasingly placing its tentacles within the very citadels of reason, that is, economics. However, so far only rather peripheral areas have been invaded, such as the history of economic thought.

Case in point: Ernesto Screpanti and Stefano Zamagni’s An Outline of the History of Economic Thought (OUP, 2005). 

In many ways, this is a fine book, which among other notable features has a longer and more sympathetic treatment of the Austrians than is common in the doctrinal history field (e.g., compare this book, which, however, is still the undisputed classic textbook in the field). However, in the latter parts of the book there are various attempts to be hip, and they are not always that successful. Notably, the authors apparently feel obliged to exalt post-modernism in terms such as this:

From an ontological point of view, modernism is based on a belief in the universal scope of human reason, whereas the main characteristic of post-modernism is the loss of certainty over the ability of reason to achieve universal objectives. Modernism bows to the idol of a rational economic agent, whereas post-modernism places the emphasis on the individual’s peculiar and contingent characteristics and the limits of his rationality (p.462).

These, errrhhh, rather general statements are somehow linked to the muzzy doctrines of French philosopher, Jean-Francois Lyotard. I do no wish to deny that Lyotard may have held the views in the above quotation. But really,who might disagree with them? Not even arch-rationalist Teppo Felin would presumably claim “the ability of reason to achieve universal objectives” (whatever that exactly means) or deny “the individual’s peculiar and contingent characteristics and the limits of his rationality.”

By portraying pomo in such uncontroversial terms, implying that we are really all pomos at heart, the authors disguise the Kingdom of Epistemological Darkness that is post-modernism, and do social science a disservice.

Entry filed under: - Foss -, Methods/Methodology/Theory of Science, Pomo Periscope.

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