Book on synergy of Popper and the other Austrians

Update on progress with a proposal for a book on Popper and the other Austrians. If all else fails this can be done as an Amazon e book which Amazon would promote to all their customers who look at  books on similar or related topics. For books priced under $10 the author receives about 70%. Presumably this is because no homo sapiens in Amazon actually has to do anything much apart from installing a robot that puts up the ebook and makes the  necessary connections. So Amazon gets $3 per sale by re-directing a lot of electrons – no editorial input, no printing and distribution of solid objects. Wow! And $7 for the author who has complete control over the content but has to do the formatting which will require some facility with html. If the book is priced over $10 the royalty is much less so you have to do some entrepreneurial speculation about how much readership you will lose at the higher price.

Target:  Graduate students and researchers with an interest in the philosophy and methods of economics and the other social sciences.

Size: Modest, 200 pp or 80,000 words maximum.

Theme/Synopsis: Must avoid dispersing efforts over too many themes.  Starting with four problems:

1. The divorce between economics and sociology, over-specialization and fragmentation generally.

2. The dominance of positivism (scientism) in economics.

3. The problems of historicism and essentialism in sociology and the soft social sciences and humanities.

4. Limited real-world and policy-relevance in much of economics and sociology (like who saw the GFC coming?)

Peter Klein has pointed out that historicism is not really on the radar these days, the issue in the current socical sciences is POMO.

There are two subtexts that need to be woven in without causing distactions.

1. The debacle of philosophy in both the analytical and “Continental” strands after Wittgenstein derailed the analytial strand (which in turn branched into positivism/logical empiricism and language games) and Heidegger did the same for the Continental tradition.

2. The window of opportunity in the 1930s/40s when Talcott Parsons in sociology, von Mises in economics and Popper were all promoting a very similar framework for investigation in the social sciences. Parsons after 1937 went the wrong way and Popper did not maintain a serious interest but there was the possibility of an alliance across the disciplines of sociology, economics and philosopohy of science to resist the disastrous fads and fashions that captured both economics and sociology after WW2.

In short, potential solutions to the problems can be pursued with a revitalized form of Austrian economics or the distinctive contribution that the Austrians contribute to good economics.

The revitalizing principles are a cluster of  philosophical ideas in metaphyiscs and epistemology, with methodological implications.

These ideas support current best practice (indeed all-time best practice), that is to say, the work of “Mr Jourdains” who have been speaking in prose all their lives.

Ane the best statements of these ideas can be found in the work of Barry Smith and Karl Popper.

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2 Responses to Book on synergy of Popper and the other Austrians

  1. Lee Kelly says:

    I’m not optimistic of such a synthesis leading anywhere fruitful.

  2. Rafe says:

    Maybe it is not a synthesis as much as cleaning up some presuppositions or framework assumptions that are (1) causing a lot of wasted time in the Austrian camp and (2) make it hard to explain Austrianism to the rest of the profession.

    (1) One reason to invoke Smith and Popper is to rebut the claims of strong apriorism. This position adds no value to Austrian economics but Hoppe et al insist on writing articles and giving lectures which (if the Smith/Popper case is robust) are a waste of time for Hoppe and his audience of listeners and readers.

    (2) On making the Austrian case to other economists. First up, strong apriorism simply goes down like the proverbial lead balloon.

    Second, even when Austrians don’t lead with their chins (strong ap) they still run into invisible railway lines of thought, presuppositions which make it really difficult to explain the Austrian angle on explanation and investigation.

    To be concrete, for many years I tried to get a grip on economics through standard texts but only when I encountered the Austrians in a libertarian bookshop circa 1983 did the subject make sense. Within two years I wrote this piece http://www.the-rathouse.com/hayaustriankey.html to explain how the Austrian principles applied to the agenda of economic rationalism-deregulation in Australia. I think the key was to approach the Austrians wearing Popperian or CR “spectacles” rather than the kind of physics-based spectacles that Mirowski wrote about (at hugely excessive length and without coming to a hepful destination).

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