(As a point of clarification, it seems that Deirdre agrees with me on some of this although my strong impression from reading her awhile back was that she is definitely not seeing what I am. She had, by the late eighties, in fact left the field of economics entirely, it seems. In this regard, I suppose she agrees with me on some points. She may have a lot to say, in fact, from a certain point of view, but I will have to read the work more closely: see the quote and other materials on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deirdre_McCloskey)
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
May 08, 2012
Making money and interacting with persons are two very similar things. In the case where we talk about “an economy” this refers to both components which is to say, the making of money and the social interactions. Today economics involves a situation in which interacting with a lot of persons causes us to make more money. In earlier periods of capitalism, or even before capitalism dominated, maybe making money led to knowing others—and, maybe not. There are all kinds of different ways that it can happen, because there is constant change in capitalism.
Because I do not see capitalism as individualism, capitalism is not defined here as the situation in which there are isolated firms here or there doing things like “raising capital.” I am not interested in the isolation of their ventures but rather in the full social impact of those ventures. To a certain sort of observer, those persons trying to make money appear to be “self-interested.” But that kind of view is, in fact, pointless. The story of capitalism is not only the story of individuals. Human beings also live in societies, societies are groups of persons and denying it is futile. It is just a part of human nature. It is obvious that we live as groups! Capitalism is not an exception to this, rather it is a reflection of it.
When we refer to “an economy” as we so like to do what we are indicating is the presence of a profit motive interacting with a social motive, or we should perhaps say, a social dynamic. Capitalism is the entire situation, the transformation of an entire society.
Intellectuals today get this wrong. Right-wingers constructing their theories consider sociality a thing that does not concern them, or that does not need to be discussed at all in terms of economics. The Left thinks of sociality but they think also of some utopian “socialist” world, a world that actually no one has ever seen (and one that we cannot and should not try to describe ahead of time -see Zizek). Both of them are wrong about where sociality is actually located. It is located in society. An “economy” obviously is a thing that is social; and we need to face the fact.
For example there is the “social sciences.” They got their name in an earlier period of intellectual history. If you look at Economics in your college catalogue, it is (considered) a “social science.” Then that is the last time you will hear any form of the word “social.” What I am suggesting is that sociality should be at the essence of these concerns, which are, concerns that are linked to what a certain group of scholars calls economics. This is a different thing from someone saying she combines philosophy or history with economics with the “social” stuff included therein (Deirdre McClosky). It is also different from saying that there are considerations that happen to be social ones, and that are nice to look at—that is Richard Sennett I am thinking of now.
Finally, let me clarify that, since economics has got to be social, when you leave the sociality out if it then your so-called “economics” is not even the valid designation of a scholarly enterprise or scholar's field of enquiry. You are getting everything wrong. Persons are not little numbers, or dots, on some graph or neo-Classical economics curve.