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Heterodox United vs. Mainstream City? Sketching a Framework for Interested Pluralism in Economics


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Pluralism is a key term in the current discourse in heterodox economics, emphasizing the need for greater theoretical integration and institutional cooperation of different economic traditions. However, both the nature of pluralism and the concrete role ascribed to pluralist thinking for the development of economics have been somewhat contested, pointing to a lack of (widely agreed) conceptual foundations. This paper addresses this conceptual gap by proposing a framework for interested pluralism as a guideline for organizing heterodox economic research, in particular, as well as economic debates, in general. In essence, interested pluralism suggests replacing the traditionally invoked demarcation criteria between different economic traditions by a set of rather ecumenical pluralist principles, whose concrete implications for economic research we discuss.
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Leonhard Dobusch is a junior professor of organization theory in the Department of Management at Freie Universitaet
Berlin. Jakob Kapeller is a research fellow in the Department of Philosophy and Theory of Science at the University of
Linz. The authors would like to thank Volker Gadenne, John King, and Marc Lavoie for their comments and their
©2012, Journal of Economic Issues / Association for Evolutionary Economics
Vol. XLV I No. 4 December 2012
DOI 10.2753/JEI0021-3624460410
Heterodox United vs. Mainstream City?
Sketching a Framework for Interested Pluralism in Economics
Leonhard Dobusch and Jakob Kapeller
Abstract: Pluralism is a key term in the current discourse in heterodox economics,
emphasizing the need for greater theoretical integration and institutional
cooperation of different economic traditions. However, both the nature of
pluralism and the concrete role ascribed to pluralist thinking for the development
of economics have been somewhat contested, pointing to a lack of (widely agreed)
conceptual foundations. This paper addresses this conceptual gap by proposing a
framework for interested pluralism as a guideline for organizing heterodox
economic research, in particular, as well as economic debates, in general. In
essence, interested pluralism suggests replacing the traditionally invoked
demarcation criteria between different economic traditions by a set of rather
ecumenical pluralist principles, whose concrete implications for economic research
we discuss.
Keywords: heterodox economics, paradigms, pluralism, sociology of economics
JEL Classification Codes: A14, B40, B50
[A] plurality of paradigms in economics and in social
sciences in general is not only an obvious fact but also a
necessary and desirable phenomenon in a very complex
and continually changing subject. Depending on
circumstances and the problem to be tackled, different
approaches, or a combination of them, have to be used in
order to be able to get nearer to the far-away “truth.”
— K.W. Rothschild (1999, 5)
The rise of the neoclassical paradigm to unprecedented dominance in economic
thought has been matched by the parallel growth of literature on economic pluralism,
mostly put forward by schools of economic thought, which have found themselves
increasingly marginalized. In the introduction to their recent, edited volume, Economic
Leonhard Dobusch and Jakob Kapeller
Pluralism, Robert Garnett et al. (2010) distinguish two waves of such pluralist
challengers. While the first wave (of the 1970s and early 1980s) was built around a
variety of heterodox schools of thought, largely disinterested in each other, the second
wave of writers (e.g., Fullbrook 2009; Marqués and Weisman 2010) engaged in more
integrative, post-Kuhnian notions of pluralism. Specifically, Garnett et al. point to the
petition by Hodgson et al. (1992) in the American Economic Review as the turning point
in discussions about pluralism. Signed by 44 leading economists, the petition called
for “a new spirit of pluralism in economics, involving critical conversation and
tolerant communication between different approaches.”
Such calls for reform and pluralism seem to have intensified over recent years,
probably due to the shattering of the neoclassical economics’ standing in the course of
the latest global financial crisis, and also to a growing number of dissenters within the
economic mainstream (Colander et al. 2004). Terminologically, we interpret
“neoclassical” economics as the dominating (“orthodox”), core theory of current
“mainstream” economics, while acknowledging that the commitment to the central
tenets of neoclassical economics varies within the mainstream, and even is less intense
at — what Colander et al. (2004) call — the “edge of the mainstream.” In contrast, we
treat “heterodox” economics as a collection of different, non-neoclassical schools of
thought which are neither fully consistent nor easily definable. This terminological
conception does not only allow for explaining the “grey areas” (Dow 2000, 157)
between different traditions (mainstream or otherwise), but also is, by and large,
compatible with a broad variety of interpretations of these terms (Colander et al. 2007
–2008; Dequech 2007–2008; Vernengo 2010). This terminology also resembles that
deployed by Marc Lavoie (2009), as well as by Leonhard Dobusch and Jakob Kapeller
(2009), which is based on the conceptual foundations presented by Roger Backhouse
(2004). Figure 1 summarizes these terminological considerations and provides a
stylized overview of the current economic discourse in the form of a simplified
paradigmatic map of economic theorizing.
However, as the diversity of contributions in Garnett et al.’s (2010) volume
shows, the engagement with paradigmatic pluralism at the meta-level has not led to
corresponding (or even compatible) suggestions for the pluralistic conduct of research.
For one thing, such institutional characteristics as citation-based evaluation of
research quality (see, for example, Dobusch and Kapeller 2009; Kapeller 2010a) may
or may not be compatible with different approaches towards pluralism. For another,
the gap between Kuhnian and post-Kuhnian approaches towards pluralism still
prevails in current debates (see, for further examples, the 2008 special issue of the
Journal of Philosophical Economics on this subject, edited by Andrew Mearman). It is in
this context that we see the need for a framework allowing pluralism in research
praxis independent of paradigmatic background. The core idea of a pluralist
framework, therefore, appeals not only to heterodox or dissenting economists but, in
fact, to all those who are dissatisfied with the institutional and conceptual dominance
of neoclassical economics (though not necessarily with its content).
In this paper, we try to reconcile Kuhnian notions of paradigms with a post-
Kuhnian understanding of pluralism by applying the term paradigm in an empirically
Framework for Interested Pluralism
descriptive instead of a prescriptive — methodological sense (second section). We
complement this discussion by analyzing the potential of pluralist thinking for
scientific research as well as the dominat approaches to pluralism in economics (third
section). Taking these preliminary considerations into account, this paper goes
beyond being just another “call for pluralism” by suggesting, instead, that the
conscious formation of a pluralist framework, or “meta-paradigm,” is not only
possible, but also a desirable aim (fourth section). We provide a conceptual
foundation for such a pluralist framework, which is helpful for organizing existing
knowledge, as well as for sketching out future research avenues (fifth section). Finally,
we offer some concluding thoughts (sixth section).
Figure 1. Paradigms in Economic Discourse
Paradigm: A Working Definition
Generally, the term “paradigm” as famously invoked by Thomas Kuhn
(1962/1996) — strongly connects to the sociological aspect of scientific inquiry, where
different academic disciplines are perceived as specific social fields. The Kuhnian
account has been criticized for a variety of reasons, most notably, for its cloudy
conceptualization of what a paradigm exactly is or should be (Masterman [1970]
collects 21 different usage categories attached to this term in Kuhn’s Structure of
Economists Behavioral
Leonhard Dobusch and Jakob Kapeller
Scientific Revolutions). So either the term “paradigm” is entirely vacuous, or its diffuse
state in Kuhn’s work is due to the fact that it addresses a series of distinct but
connected aspects, all of which are relevant for the emergence of scientific fields as
special forms of social organization. In this sense, the term paradigm loses its
epistemological connotations (for instance, the proposition that different paradigms
are conceptually incommensurable) and becomes a rather descriptive term (for
instance, by indicating that scientists from different traditions utilize distinct
terminologies, which may account for the lack of inter-paradigmatic understanding;
see also Dow 2004; Marqués and Weisman 2010). In other words, the existence of a
paradigm in such an understanding has social, rather than logical, implications. We
argue that such an approach leads to a persuasive conception of “paradigms,” since
the term loses its normative and methodological implications, but becomes a positive
term in social analysis. We, therefore, subscribe to an understanding of the term as a
merely descriptive concept, depicting scientists and their perceptions as socially
embedded in a certain occupational philosophy, thus merging the Kuhnian idea of
paradigm with insights from the sociology of knowledge (Berger and Luckmann 1966;
Gouldner 1970).
Such an understanding of what the term should mean if it is to be useful for
generating insights is still far from a simplistic concept, but comes with a series of
divergent — yet, theoretically and socially relevant — presuppositions, which can be
interpreted as hypotheses on the social constraints faced by scientists who operate in
distinct paradigmatic areas. At a general level, a scientific paradigm entails a certain
theoretical perspective, which contains (among other things) ontological and
teleological aspects. Researchers, sharing such a theoretical perspective, embrace (a) a
series of theoretical propositions (axiomatic dimension); (b) a series of related images,
heuristics and important individuals (metaphorical dimension); (c) a certain set of
archetypical applications (practical dimension); and (d) a series of theory-specific
concepts (terminological dimension).
These rather theoretical aspects which imply a shared set of analytical categories,
in turn, give rise to specific institutional routines. These are emergent phenomena,
which arise out of the shared “styles of thought” implemented by the common
theoretical perspective of a paradigm’s practitioners (that is the “thought-collective” in
Fleck [1935] 1979). While these routines have a common origin in certain “styles of
thought,” they are in themselves constituted as social mechanisms, often in the form
of specific institutions or informal codes of conduct. Among these social aspects of a
paradigm are (a) a shared set of respected institutions (conferences, associations,
academic journals, etc. the institutional dimension); (b) a series of basic
methodological requirements or of typically applied methods (the methodological
dimension); and (c) a similar conception of academic standards as they affect the
perceived quality, originality, and empirical robustness of a certain argument (the
evaluative dimension). Note that, in such a conception of the term, different
paradigms may (but not necessarily will) be non-commensurable, due to different
notions of theory, quality, and evidence. Also, the notion of a paradigm shift is
relaxed in this context. A paradigm shift no longer implies the necessity of a, more or
Framework for Interested Pluralism
less, instantaneous and simultaneous shift of all these dimensions (a “revolution,” in
Kuhnian terms), but allows for incremental change, and thus the possibility of an
evolutionary development. However, if paradigmatic developments indeed mimic
path-dependent processes (see, for example, Dobusch and Kapeller 2009; Sterman
and Wittenberg 1999), we should not be surprised to occasionally observe very rapid
shifts related to one or more of these dimensions. In what follows, we argue that such
a pragmatic approach to the term is applicable to economics, and that understanding
paradigms as primarily social phenomena might foster the emergence of more
pluralist tendencies in current economic thought.
Table 1. A Stylized Conceptual Comparison of Three Distinct Economic Paradigms
Table 1 illustrates how our conception of paradigms allows comparing different
economic traditions along the dimensions suggested above. For reasons of illustration,
the selection of these examples is utilizing relatively well-known and historically
Paradigmatic aspect Neoclassical paradigm Evolutionary paradigm Post-Keynesian paradigm
Theoretical characteristics of paradigms (“styles of thought”)
Central problem (basic
theoretical perspective)
Scarcity Change Unemployment
Solution (basic theoretical
perspective: teleological
Efficiency Development Full employment
Level of analysis (basic
theoretical perspective:
Micro-Level (individual
Meso-Level (Institutions,
emergent phenomena,
interactive processes)
Macro-Level (economic
aggregates, money)
Actor conceptions
Optimizing rationality Creativity and strategic
Animal spirits and
procedural rationality
Central property of markets
Equilibrium (Say’s
Creative destruction Effective demand
Archetypical science
Physics (classical
Biology (evolutionary
Engineering (technical
Archetypical individual
P.A. Samuelson J.A. Schumpeter J.M. Keynes
Typical applications
(practical dimensions)
Popular models (e.g.
rational actor,
perfect competition)
Research on innovation Economic policy (fiscal
and monetary policy)
Examples for idiosyncratic
terms (terminological
“marginality” “new combination” “(fundamental)
Institutional characteristics of paradigms (“thought collectives”)
Important Institutions
(institutional dimension)
Dominant Methodologies
Formal Modelling /
Simulations and case
Formal Modelling /
Econometrics /
Historical Studies
Quality Criteria (evaluative
significance tests
Focus on processes on
micro and meso-level;
significance tests,
policy relevance
Leonhard Dobusch and Jakob Kapeller
established frameworks specifically suited for this task. Thereby, it does not aim to
represent the “most important” paradigms. On the contrary, it is necessary to
emphasize the diversity of dissenting traditions, which are often locally grounded (like
the “ordoliberal” tradition in Germany or the French “regulation school”),
ideologically committed (like “Austrian” or “Radical Economists”), or related to
interdisciplinary research (for instance, in the case of economic geography or parts of
behavioral economics). Moreover, Table 1 does not fully illustrate the scope of the
presented paradigms, but only some foundational ideas. The short-term output of this
procedure is simply a pedagogically useful overview of the differences embodied in
various economic traditions. However, we would argue that using such a comparison
as a conceptual guideline facilitates the consideration of the “commensurability” of
different paradigms via such questions as: Do different paradigms relate to distinct or
similar objects? Do their theoretical viewpoints or policy implications conflict,
complement, or coincide? Can their theory-specific terminology be translated into
each other’s language? We think such questions are not only useful at the specific
scale, but also necessary for the broader aim of making progress in economic thought.
Pluralism and Paradigms
By and large, the current literature on pluralism in economics — as well as more
practical attempts to conduct pluralist research and education in the field — struggles
to integrate individual traditions or schools of economic thought under a common
pluralist umbrella. Most prominent among the intriguing aspects arising from this
effort is the quest(ion) for a common intellectual and conceptual basis for economic
endeavors and/or the integration of heterodox economics. Different authors present
affirmative answers to this question, proposing ontological reflection (Bigo and Negru
2008; Caldwell 2004; Lawson 2006, 2010; Nelson 2003), methodological similarities
(Dow 2004, 2008), opposition to mainstream economics (Colander et al. 2004;
Dequech 2007–2008)
or capitalism (Lee 2010) as common cornerstones of
heterodox thought, and thus as suitable foundational pillars for a pluralist economics.
David Dequech recently summarized the situation as follows:
Heterodox economics can be defined negatively, in opposition to … the
mainstream. Another possibility would be to define heterodox
economics positively, but the result in the current period may be an empty
set. (Dequech 2007–2008, 279)
We would add that the situation is very much the same for a “pluralist economics,”
regardless of whether the notion is identified with heterodoxy or interpreted as a
distinct phenomenon. In this context, we argue that a “pluralist (meta-)paradigm”
could synthesize the conceptual and methodological diversity of dissenting approaches
into a common research strategy, leading to a single “competitor” of neoclassical
economics, which would need neither a common core nor a shared enemy. Quite the
contrary, it would be the principle of pluralism itself that should be seen as the
Framework for Interested Pluralism
decisive and connecting feature of the paradigm. Thus, the core idea behind such a
“pluralist paradigm” is that paradigm-specific idiosyncrasies (as depicted in Table 1)
are consciously and successively replaced by pluralist principles. We believe these can
be formulated in ways that are non-dogmatic and ecumenical — as well as quality-
assuring — and hence suitable for guiding future economic research.
This idea stands in opposition to those heterodox economists who do not allow
pluralism to exist in any form as an adequate or desirable status quo, but exhibit an
openly monist attitude instead. Peter Boettke (2007), for instance, openly rejects a
pluralist strategy “at the level of the individual scientist”. Another example is provided
by the rather specialist debate on who is, or deserves to be, called “[p]ost-Keynesian”
and who does not deserve this honor (Davidson 2003–2004, 2005a; Dow 2005; King
2005a; Lavoie 2005). John King’s (2002) book on the history of post-Keynesianism
served as a trigger for this debate, which provides a series of examples, illustrating
monist tendencies and related counter-arguments. The theoretical core of this debate
is illustrative for the problems arising out of monist tendencies in general: Paul
Davidson’s strong emphasis on Keynes’s rejection of three central assumptions in
traditional theory the neutrality of money, the axiom of gross-substitutability, and
the assumption of ergodicity is enthusiastically received by a majority of dissenting
economists. But his insistence on envisaging the “General Theory” as a supreme and
all-encompassing theory, similar to the theory of relativity in physics (Davidson 2005a,
2005b), is considered an “astonishing” (King 2005b) and “extraordinary
claim” (Hodgson 2005).
The debate itself could be construed as illustrating that “if you [dogmatically]
believe in the correctness of your ideas, you don’t want pluralism; you want your ideas
to win out because they are correct” (Colander et al. 2007–2008, 308). Thus, we see
dogmatism and pluralism as fundamentally opposed ideas (see Dow 2004, 280).
Before sketching our suggestions for a set of pluralist principles, however, we must
clarify our understanding of pluralism. The next two subsections tackle this question
from two distinct perspectives. First, we review important rationales for pluralism in
the current literature. Second, we differentiate competing conceptions of pluralism
and specify our understanding of the notion as it might contribute to a framework of
pluralist research.
Reasons for Pluralism
There have been a variety of attempts to rationalize the desire to promote a more
pluralistic attitude to economic research (Fullbrook 2009; Garnett et al. 2010) and
teaching (Freeman 2010; Groenewegen 2007; Reardon 2009). The arguments put
forward in this context can be sorted into three rough categories: epistemological,
ontological, and methodological. The basic epistemological argument is quite simple.
Assuming that science aims at providing knowledge that is in some way superior to,
say, religion or gossip, it should engage in some kind of “sorting” — that is, attempting
to differentiate between better and worse explanations, while still acknowledging that
all explanations are principally fallible. Whereas the latter proviso implies the absence
Leonhard Dobusch and Jakob Kapeller
of dogmatism, it follows from the former notion that a serious evaluation of
competing explanations demands they be more or less evenly represented and
considered in academic discourse (see Albert 1985, Mill [1859] 2001, 40-48; Popper
[1935] 2004; or Mearman 2011, who labels this “theoretical pluralism”). It is very
clear that this is not the case in current economics. For instance, citation analysis
reveals that academic journals, associated with mainstream economics, systematically
ignore heterodox contributions (Cronin 2010; Dobusch and Kapeller 2012; Kapeller
2010a, 2010b; see also, Lee 2004). This situation motivates more ethically inclined
proposals for “academic freedom” (Garnett 2011) and “intellectual pluralism” in the
form of academic tolerance (Lee 2011a), which also draw on more general
epistemological considerations.
An ontological perspective emphasizes the influence researchers’ preconceptions
about the nature of matter, mind, and reality have on how they perceive and describe
the objects they encounter in these (sometimes confused and overlaying) realms. From
this follows the awareness that social reality is multi-faceted, and thus requires a
variety of perspectives if it is to be adequately described and explained (Norgaard
1989; Samuels 1998; a position that is also central to Sheila Dow’s “Babylonian”
approach to economics [Dow 2005]). The philosopher of science, Ronald Giere,
interprets this multi-facetedness as indicating the need for a diversity of “maps” for
different purposes like hiking, driving a car, or steering a boat (see Giere 1999),
again supporting the need for a pluralist perspective. Indeed, it might turn out that
theories, seemingly different and competing, are, in fact, neutral or containing
complementary sets of statements, while simply answering different questions. In this
case, a blind struggle for a “single best answer” would lead researchers astray, since it
essentially entails comparing apples with oranges. Ontological sensitivity is, therefore,
also a necessary component of any serious attempt to differentiate between better or
worse explanations.
From a methodological viewpoint, the plentitude of methods employed within
social research as a whole bears witness to the potential of diversification in research
strategies. Every research question is unique and demands its own way of being
studied since, generally speaking, the question should determine the method, and not
vice versa (Bigo 2010; Dow 2008; Lawson 2004; Norgaard 1989; Samuels 1998).
However, in practice, it seems that it is far easier for researchers to choose an
appropriate strategy from among a broad set of existing methodological blueprints,
instead of starting afresh with every new research project.
A summary of the existing literature thus far shows that pluralism is a preferable
mode of scientific conduct for epistemological, ontological, and methodological
reasons. To conclude our survey of the current literature on economic pluralism with
another rough comparison, the following section distinguishes three common but
remarkably different understandings of pluralism.
Framework for Interested Pluralism
Varieties of Pluralism
On an abstract level, we differentiate between three basic approaches to
pluralism, which differ in terms of their attitude to inter-paradigmatic controversy on
(a) discursive and (b), more general, teleological levels. First, there are various forms of
“selfish pluralism,” where pluralism in economic thought is conceptualized as a
transitional solution — an acceptable state of affairs for the time being, but one that is
deemed inferior to a received approach where one’s preferred theoretical tradition
holds paradigmatic sway.
Here, pluralism is a kind of rhetorical vehicle designed to
ensure the survival of a particular paradigm, but not to achieve an ecumenical
discourse or any kind of theoretical integration. Such an opportunistic understanding
of pluralism (which has been criticized by a variety of authors including Davis 1997;
Garnett 2006; Holcombe 2008; and van Bouwel 2005) sees other dissenting traditions
as “temporary allies” against mainstream economics. Eventually, however, it would
still perceive them as competing paradigms, so that its main interaction with other
dissenting traditions takes the form of (in most cases, respectful) mutual critique.
Second, what we label disinterested pluralism” (or “plurality,” in Bigo and
Negru 2008; and “tolerance,” in Mearman 2011) can be characterized as a mode of
coexistence between different theoretical traditions or schools of thought. Since such
an understanding embodies analytical tolerance for divergent theoretical and
methodological approaches, it also advocates the coexistence of different paradigms
within a certain discipline. This kind of pluralism is practiced in other social sciences
as well (and, according to Morgan and Rutherford [1998], was embodied in the
economic discipline during the interwar years). Disciplines like sociology or
management studies host a great variety of theoretical approaches, where researchers
mostly interact with colleagues who conduct research in the same analytical tradition
so other theoretical approaches are tolerated and only occasionally criticized, but
there is no ambition for increased interaction between them, or even for the
integration of different subfields. In the same way, tolerant but disinterested scholars
lack ambitions to conquer a certain discipline through excessive paradigmatic struggle,
since the survival of one’s preferred approach seems sufficient, and would be safely
ensured by the continuation of the status quo.
In contrast, a third approach — “interested pluralism” does embody a striving
for constructive interaction between different theoretical traditions in order to come
up with an improved and expanded set of relevant explanatory statements. One can,
therefore, find within this approach a series of suggestions for intensified interaction
between different economic traditions, emphasizing the importance of increased inter-
paradigmatic awareness and respect (Hopkins 2010), the need for theoretical
integration (Lavoie 2006; O’Hara 2007, 2008), or the necessity of establishing a sole
(or at least unified) paradigmatic competitor to neoclassical economics (Dobusch and
Kapeller 2009; Lee 2010). Identifying the relative strengths and weaknesses of
different approaches — as well as their potential complementarities also falls into
this category.
Leonhard Dobusch and Jakob Kapeller
From a conceptual point of view, one main difference between the last two
approaches is that “disinterested” pluralism might constitute a suitable research
strategy for fields like sociology or management studies — where no dominant
paradigms exist and a disciplinary umbrella unites a variety of paradigms — while
“interested pluralism” might be able to unite different theoretical approaches under a
common umbrella, so generating, not a “pluralism of paradigms,” but a “pluralist
Table 2 summarizes the three broad conceptions of pluralism (or “types of calls
for pluralism”) we sketched out. For a variety of reasons, we think that only the third
type “interested pluralism” represents a suitable and viable approach for
heterodox economics, in particular, and dissenting economists, in general. It is
because this variant of pluralism is most compatible with all the different reasons for
pluralism hitherto discussed, where the arguments hinge on a conscious interaction
between different approaches, and hence are less congruent with any kind of
“disinterested tolerance.” There are two other aspects that strengthen our argument
for broad acceptance of “interested pluralism,” especially within the realm of
heterodox economics, and they both refer to the power differentials inherent in
paradigmatic struggles. First, the literature on paradigmatic struggles suggests that the
number of competitors challenging a dominant paradigm is the most decisive variable
for its survival. The more competitors a dominant paradigm faces, the more easily will
it sustain its superior position, since its competitors would be preoccupied with
fighting each other instead of confronting their strongest opponent united (Sterman
and Wittenberg 1999). Although this assertion stems from a rather formal approach
(based on simulation techniques), it seems to match the contemporary heterodox
economics practices described and criticized by Marc Lavoie (2006, 2009). The more
fragmented and dispersed dissenting economists are, the less powerful is their
position in scholarly and non-scholarly dimensions of paradigmatic struggles.
Table 2. Three Conceptions of Pluralism in Economics
Second, heterodox economists mostly practice pluralism of the first and second
types – contributions of the third type are relatively rare (see, however, the exceptions
noted below). This seems to be confirmed by citation analysis, which shows that most
heterodox traditions communicate actively with the mainstream by citing many
mainstream contributions, but that mainstream articles virtually neglect heterodox
voices. Moreover, the mainstream practices a type of “internal pluralism,” where cited
Conception of pluralism Discourse level Teleological level
Selfish Regular critique Dominance and/or survival
Disinterested Occasional critique
and/or engagement Containment of status quo
Interested Constructive
Ecumenical integration and
Framework for Interested Pluralism
articles come from highly diversified origins, while cross-school interaction is much
rarer in heterodox economics where scholars are seemingly mostly concerned with
their own traditions. This makes heterodox citation networks look porous compared
to the tight citation networks of mainstream economics (Dobusch and Kapeller 2012;
Kapeller 2010a; Lee 2008, 2009). In citation analysis terms, heterodox economics
oscillates between “selfish” and “disinterested” pluralism, with engagement with the
“interested” version (in the above sense) being out of sight. Citation-based quality
assessments, in turn, tend to further strengthen the power of mainstream positions in
terms of access to publication outlets and research funding. Given the rising
importance of journal rankings in evaluating research activities, strengthening
interaction among dissenting economists of all sorts seems to be a conditio sine qua non
for a long-term academic survival of dissenting economists and heterodox traditions.
So the imperative for dissenting economists is to create “interested
pluralism” (i.e., a “pluralist paradigm”), rather than to promote “disinterested
pluralism,” (i.e., a “pluralism of paradigms”): given the current state of the economic
discipline, we argue that only the former holds the potential for success. Moreover, we
suggest that only a pluralist paradigm would seem to be fully compatible with the
more general rationales for a pluralistic attitude in scientific endeavors, including
research in economics. The next section delineates some central principles of creating
and sustaining a “pluralist paradigm” as a framework for interested pluralism in
What Is a Pluralist Paradigm?
If this sounds like openness, eclecticism, and tolerance for
ambiguity, I plead guilty. The alternative is premature
closure, myopic determinism, and sectarianism (Samuels
2000, 312).
This paper builds on the idea that paradigms are, in the last resort, social
constructions (Berger and Luckmann 1966) — man-made constructs, which serve as
central pillars to help scientists describe, categorize, and evaluate all kinds of factual
events or processes. That is exactly the reason why it makes sense to consciously re-
evaluate our paradigmatic stance, which carries a heavy baggage of preconceptions,
presuppositions, and even prejudices. The aim of a pluralist paradigm is not only to
reflect but, eventually, to reverse these presuppositions, and to smooth the path for a
more pluralism-oriented practice. In this spirit, our purpose is to replace the specific —
and often narrow — theoretical preconceptions of different schools of thought with a
kind of ecumenical conception of science, wherein mutual understanding has priority
in scientific discourse. Such a conception helps provide the most basic requirement of
any paradigm “a core set of principles by which to guide practice” (Dow 2008, 81).
In this rather skeletal sense, a paradigm is indeed nothing more than a simple
framework; a device for conceptual exploration.
Table 3 provides an overview of a framework for conducting interested
pluralism. It takes the dimensional characteristics of a typical paradigm as given, and
Leonhard Dobusch and Jakob Kapeller
suggests some general principles for replacing tradition-specific idiosyncrasies. The
aim of these principles is not to suppress individual traditions, but to create a level
playing field — in the form of shared preconceptions — where researchers may
participate in constructive mutual engagement.
Table 3. Conception of a Pluralist Paradigm
Dimension Preconceptions offered by a pluralist paradigm
Theoretical characteristics of paradigms (“styles of thought”)
Central problem (basic
Explaining and illuminating the economy / economic activity / socio-
economic processes.
Solution (basic
Finding explanations for the above phenomena with increasing
empirical success and precision; in short: “truth” or the “elimination of
error” in general.
Level of analysis (basic
Ontological tolerance: Awareness of the multi-facet
ness of social reality,
which implies the necessity of a manifoldness of analytical perspectives.
Conceptions of actors
and institutions
(axiomatic dimension)
Acceptance of competing hypotheses, which may be true or false, but
may also simply be applicable to different social contexts, where a thorough
demarcation of scopes of application seems desirable.
Archetypical social
setting (metaphorical
Ideal speech situation as envisaged by Habermas (1981).
Typical applications
(practical dimension)
Integration of theoretical propositions, diversification of theoretical
applications or specific methods in new contexts, comparisons of prevalent
theories, methods and empirical results associated with different traditions
leading to a certain division of labour, excavation and discussion of different
ontological or teleological stances, evaluation of competing theoretical
Institutional characteristics of paradigms (“thought collectives”)
Important Institutions
(institutional dimension)
PAER/RWER* as archetypes for newly emerging associations, journals
the like.
Dominant Methodology
Concrete methods have to be justified in the face of the specific
problems one analyzes. No method is perceived as per se superior to others.
Quality Criteria
(evaluative dimension)
Content-oriented evaluation instead of citation counting,
to the integration of heterodox thought as a quality criterion, ecumenical
* The associations mentioned are: World Economics Association (WEA), International Conference of
Associations for Pluralism in Economics (ICAPE), Association for Heterodox Economics (AHE), and
French Association of Political Economy/Association Française d’Economie Politique (FAPE). The
journals mentioned are: Review of Political Economy (ROPE), Journal of Economic Issues (JEI), American
Journal of Economics and Sociology (AJES), and Real-World Economics Review (RWER) (the former Post-
Autistic Economics Review – PAER).
Framework for Interested Pluralism
It is quite evident that a pluralist framework must eschew theoretical
presuppositions as far as possible, which requires an agnostic stance as its basic
theoretical perspective. Thus, we suggest a very general approach, seeing economics as
the analysis of economic phenomena in the broadest sense, similar to those who refer
to economics as the study of the social-provisioning process (Lee 2011b). Note that
our descriptions of the teleological level and the axiomatic dimension are fairly
general, allowing for tackling problems from a descriptive as well as from a more
evaluative perspective, aiming to test competing explanations in a very broad sense. At
the same time, these descriptions signal a slight hostility to the type of model-building
efforts, which are mainly speculative and embody unrealistic assumptions without
reflecting their empirical adequacy (see Hausman 1992; Sugden 2000; and Rubinstein
2006, who advance such a view). The more traditional approach of relying on
idealized conceptions as a source of assumptions for constructing thought
experiments in this context is considered to be inferior to those theoretical
approaches, which aim to ground their conceptual fundament (i.e., their main
assumptions) in empirically defendable arguments.
The idea that researchers’ methods should be relevant and justified against the
subject of their research (on the methodological level) follows quite naturally from
these epistemological propositions, and aligns well with claims for methodological
pluralism (Dow 2004, 2008; Samuels 1998). Such a presumption, however, deviates
significantly from an “anything-goes” approach (as suggested by Feyerabend 1977).
On the ontological level, we build on past contributions from different authors
(Lawson 2006, 2010; Nelson 2003), and propose an agnostic and balanced position
for facilitating a pluralistic environment. Ontological issues involve inherent
assumptions behind theorizing activity, and so call for sensibility, awareness, and
tolerance — an attitude that is a central condition for communicating successfully
across traditional boundaries (Bigo and Negru 2008; Samuels 1998). This brings us
directly to the metaphorical dimension, where we can replace the non-economic
archetypes depicted in Table 1 with a more philosophical concept Jürgen
Habermas’s (1981) “ideal speech situation.” For an ideal speech situation to occur,
every “voice” that is competent to speak and act must be allowed to take part, ask
questions, introduce assertions, express attitudes, and be generally free from any
internal or external coercion that might prevent the exercising of these rights. This
notion also calls for a “truly substantive, or deep pluralism,” demanding not only
theoretical and methodological pluralism, but also a “greater diversity in the people
who participate in scholarly conversations” as well as “in the topics of
investigation” (Strassmann et al. 2010, 65).
Since we discuss practical applications of such a pluralist framework in the next
section, only the institutional and evaluative dimensions remain to be addressed.
Table 3 presents some suggestions that are less concrete — as such institutional
characteristics emerge over time — in real situations. While theoretical conceptions
can be sketched and debated, accepted or declined in the abstract, institutional
characteristics often depend on historical idiosyncrasies. Therefore, we have noted
some aspects of current practice which, among other things, can be interpreted as
Leonhard Dobusch and Jakob Kapeller
types, “role models” for further activities. We argue that conceptualizing a framework
for practicing interested pluralism is important and useful, because it resolves a series
of vexing and complicating questions such as the set, for instance, formulated by
Robert Garnett:
What exactly do we stand for as heterodox economists? What are our chief
intellectual priorities? Are we paradigm warriors, first and foremost? Or are
we pluralists, seeking to promote tolerance and critical engagement among
diverse points of view? (Garnett 2006, 521-522)
The framework of a “pluralist paradigm” can resolve these tensions. On the one hand,
it allows for answering the last two questions in the affirmative (which would
normally be considered inconsistent but, if pluralism itself is the prize for which the
paradigm-warrior fights, this tension melts away). On the other hand, our pluralist
framework gives relatively clear-cut answers on the first two questions, without
imposing any specific theoretical and methodological view on any one researcher.
Altogether, our pluralist paradigm proposal in no way suggests a relativist or post
-modernist stance (on the relation of relativism and pluralism, see also: Bigo and
Negru 2008; De Langhe 2010; Dow 2008). Quite the contrary, the conception of
pluralism we sketched out contradicts postmodern arbitrariness from at least three
perspectives. First, we reject the idea of anything goes” (from an epistemological
point of view); pluralism “must respect logic, consistency and the stability of meanings
within arguments. [I]t should comply with the minimal rules of good argumentation:
not anything goes” (Marqués and Weismann 2008, 117). Indeed, we propose a
systematic search for knowledge, whether in the form of facts or regularities. Second,
ontological awareness does not imply accepting certain propositions uncritically, but it
requires that the prerequisites for understanding and evaluating works with different
ontological foundations be met. Third, tolerating hypotheses alternative to one’s
preferred one does not require a relativistic standpoint. The general premise of
fallibilism — that is, acknowledging the possibility that any statement (including one’s
own) could be wrong — should ensure a tolerant discourse, even if it leads only to
disagreement. The need for politeness and mutual respect might be considered a
hidden premise in this argument. Nonetheless, we claim that our proposed approach
will allow the mixed armada of smaller and larger craft, carrying their divergent
cargoes, to navigate in safety the turbulent waters of economic research, avoiding both
“the Scylla of the bonds of the modernist, mechanical worldview and the Charybdis
of the relativism and subjectivism of the deconstructionist alternative” (Nelson 2003,
One important clarification concerns the role of such a pluralist framework vis-à-
vis current mainstream economics. The conception of pluralism put forward in this
article is, by definition, opposed to the paradigmatic dominance of neoclassical
economics, but, by its very nature, also incorporates neoclassical approaches.
Therefore, it accepts neoclassical research and ideas within its boundaries (Samuels
1998), but not the institutional and theoretical dominance of any single approach over
Framework for Interested Pluralism
the whole discipline, and hence is potentially acceptable for heterodox as well as
mainstream dissenters. Thereby, the “distortions caused by using models centered
around the choice behaviour of individual, autonomous, self-interested
agents” (Nelson 2003, 49) are primarily a result of ontological monism. Within a
pluralist setting one could more easily complement or challenge such approaches (but
not preclude them à priori).
Our proposition of a more pluralist framework does not, for instance, imply any
major changes in the heterodox treatment of the current mainstream, except one. We
have already noted how heterodox journals profusely cite mainstream economic
journals, while largely ignoring their heterodox counterparts, especially those not
belonging to their own “sub-group” (Kapeller 2010a; 2010b). This has to change. Our
recommendation to individual researchers is clear: Devote less time to (orthodox)
mainstream economics and dedicate this time, instead, to other dissenting traditions.
At least for heterodox economists (but also for some of the “mainstream dissenters”),
re-allocating time from studying the mainstream to studying (other) heterodox
traditions is also a strategic imperative in the face of the institutional impact of
citation rankings: Heterodoxy must create a tighter citation network, or risk being
simply “outranked” in the very near future. From a pluralist perspective, it seems
quite natural that neoclassical economics should get as much attention as any other
approach, but not (as it does) disproportionally more than other traditions.
Another noteworthy aspect of this debate concerns the question: How exactly
could interested pluralism embed neoclassical economics? On this specific question,
David Colander, Robert Garnett and their co-authors (Colander et al. 2007–2008,
2010; Colander et al. 2004; Garnett 2006) — as well as Giuseppe Fontana and Bill
Gerrard (2006) — have made a major contribution to a pluralist conception of
economics by emphasizing that a dialogue between different schools should be polite
and (at least partly) constructive.
From a pluralist perspective, one should treat
neoclassical theory as any other theory, even if such evenhandedness is difficult for
many heterodox economists to implement since they face continual ”uphill battles”
with the current mainstream (Samuels 2000, 306). On the other hand, many
dissenting economists are working outside the heterodox sphere. These dissenting
mainstream economists would probably welcome the possibility of broadening
research agendas through the diversification of economic thought, as envisaged by our
framework for interested pluralism. And, from a consistently pluralist stance, there is
no basis for an à priori exclusion or degradation of neoclassical arguments (although,
oxymoronically, many authors propose as much in their conceptions of pluralism; see
for instance Dow 2008; Lawson 2006; Lee 2010). Moreover, one certainly has to
concede that not all elements of neoclassical thought are necessarily wrong,
dangerous, or inapplicable (see King 2012, 8-9). Additionally, dissenting ideas may
influence orthodox practice, as has been evidenced (at least in the view of some) by
the introduction of the Taylor rule in monetary policy, whereby central banks try to
control the interest rate instead of the money supply (King 2012, 13-14; Lavoie 2009,
13). It seems likely that such influence is most effective when delivered in a polite and
constructive manner, and when formulated in a language that facilitates mutual
Leonhard Dobusch and Jakob Kapeller
understanding. Here, again, a “Colanderian” approach of searching for a discourse on
the level of economic policy (Colander et al. 2010, 406) might prove more fruitful
(and also more “pluralist”) than the “classical” approach of invoking fundamental
theoretical debates.
Practicing Pluralism: Integration, Diversification, Comparison, and Exchange
While “disinterested pluralism,” or “plurality,” implies fragmented, divergent
approaches, we can associate “interested pluralism” with the integration of different
schools of thought (Bigo and Neru 2008). But what does a quest for integration entail
for research practice, in general, and individual researchers, in particular? Since we
have developed our concept of a “pluralist paradigm” from an empirically descriptive
perspective, this question has implications beyond the normative. The viability of any
framework for interested pluralism also depends on its ability to inform the practical
conduct of individuals and groups researching within the economic discipline,
thereby taking into account existing institutional restrictions for more (interested)
pluralism. We first discuss implications on a general level and then turn to concrete
examples from the heterodox economics discourse, where differences and similarities
between various traditions are relatively well documented. However, in theory, the
same arguments also apply to other dissenting traditions or economists.
In light of Frederic Lee’s (2010, 19) stance that pluralism implies “engagement
across different heterodox approaches,” we argue that this engagement would be most
productively realized at the level of theoretical statements, dealing with distinct
empirical phenomena. Instead of comparing paradigms at an abstract level, this
approach allows for the comparison of theories, as well as the continuation of
empirical work, on real-world economic problems. Essentially, we advocate the
systematic comparison of theoretical statements from different heterodox traditions,
resulting in different research practices (see Table 4). This would allow pluralist
practices to be interpreted as complementary research strategies, whose orientation
depends on the relationships between different theoretical statements stemming from
distinct schools of economic thought.
Table 4. Strategies for Comparing Theoretical Statements of Different
Economic Paradigms
# Comparison between
theoretical statements
Pluralist research practices / strategies
(1)  Identical
(a) Integration
(2)  Convergent
(3)  Compatible (b) Division
of labor
(4) O O Neutral (c) Diversification
(5)  Divergent (d) Test of conflicting hypotheses
(6)  Contradictory
Framework for Interested Pluralism
Depending on the relation between such theoretical statements, we can
distinguish several types of pluralist research practices to be described in the next few
paragraphs. Where statements do not differ in substance and are, therefore, (1)
identical, or deal in a theoretically (2) convergent way with complementary phenomena,
attempting (a) theoretical integration seems the logical strategy to pursue. William
Waller (2010, 54), referring to theoretical integration under the label “convergence,”
even emphasizes that “[d]ifferent strands of economic thought borrow from one
another all the time,” and lists several instances for (potential) integration between
different heterodox paradigms. As an example of mere terminological differences,
Waller mentions foundational works of both feminist economics (such as Gilman
1898/1994) and institutional economics (such as Veblen [1899] 1934, [1894] 1964).
Marc Lavoie’s (1992) argument that institutional economics could provide the
microeconomic foundations of post-Keynesian economics is, in turn, an example of
convergence, in the sense of potential integration due to complementarity. Philip
O’Hara (2008, 264) points this as the way in which pluralism may best “help the
process of thinking, understanding the world, and developing stylized or empirical
regularities about social reality,” having listed in an earlier paper (O’Hara 2007, 4)
several “linkages between convergence sub-schools of institutional-evolutionary
political economy” such as “post-Keynesian institutionalists,” “Schumpeterians,” and
“socio-economic institutionalists.” Another possible foundation for such theoretical
integration is the more thorough analysis of similar concepts as they appear in various
economic traditions. The notion of the “irreversibility of actions,” for instance, is
represented in a broad range of traditions from evolutionary to post-Keynesian
(Davidson 1991), ecological (Daly and Farley 2004) or Austrian economics (Shackle
1966), even though we still lack a thorough comparison of what exactly these more
specific frameworks mean by the phrase. Such a comparison would be of great help in
addressing the question whether these conceptions are indeed identical or
While mere (3) compatibility between statements might also foster theoretical
integration, this need not be the case. It could alternatively result in (b) a division of
labor between different schools of thought, as has been explicitly suggested by several
authors (e.g., Bigo and Negru 2008; Lawson 2006, 2010; O’Hara 2008). Tony Lawson
(2010, 110), for example, argues that, “the individual heterodox traditions … are
identifiable more by the sorts of questions asked. It is with this understanding of
heterodoxy in mind that we can view the separate traditions as divisions of labor.” He
also mentions, as another instance, the different foci of analysis in post-Keynesianism
(fundamental uncertainty), institutionalism (processual nature of social reality), or
feminist economics (position of women and other marginalized groups in the
Clearly, the same division-of-effort idea also holds where statements deal with
completely unrelated phenomena, and are, therefore, (4) neutral in relation to each
other. One rather clear-cut example of such a complementarity can be found in short-
period macroeconomic thought where, according to John King (2008), all available
heterodox models are post-Keynesian in nature, with the single exception of the
Leonhard Dobusch and Jakob Kapeller
Goodwin trade cycle model (Goodwin 1967). So, until superior theories are
developed (see e.g., Flaschel 2009, who builds on Goodwin’s model to integrate
Schumpeterian, Marxian, and Keynesian ideas in a single framework), all heterodox
approaches can be strengthened by adopting a variant of the post-Keynesian short-
period theory. King (2008) also emphasizes that some heterodox approaches (e.g.,
institutionalist or feminist economics) have no macro-theory at all. In a similar
manner, Steve Keen (1995) applies evolutionary techniques of simulation-based
modeling to capture theoretical statements derived from the works of Hyman Minsky,
thereby adapting an evolutionary methodology to illustrate a traditional post-
Keynesian argument. These examples show how intrinsically “neutral” ideas might
complement each other by division of labor, which eventually leads to a (c)
diversification of theoretical and methodological concepts. In these cases, it is easy to
see how, in many respects, different economic traditions are much more
complementary than they are competitive.
Incompatibility between theoretical statements, on the other hand, may come in
(5) divergent or (6) contradictory forms. In the case of the former, theoretical statements
dealing with complementary subjects or levels of analysis are (apparently)
incompatible, and — as with comparing neutral statements — exploring divergent
statements may foster theoretical (c) diversification via the recombination of statements
taken from different theoretical contexts. The Taylor rule — where a competing
Keynesian thesis complements the neoclassical standard model, thereby enhancing
the latter’s plausibility and applicability provides a neat example in this context.
While one might always criticize such adaptations as being incomplete, they do
constitute recombinations, and thus represent a diversification of post-Keynesian
thought. Another example of a possible diversification is proposed by Lavoie (2009),
who emphasizes a blind spot in current post-Keynesian thought with respect to the
potential of more ecologically inspired approaches.
Obviously, some work is also needed to reconcile the post-Keynesian target
of full-employment with the requirements of ecological economics and its
call for slower or zero economic growth. So far, post-Keynesians have
written very little on the subject of the environment. (Lavoie 2009, 16)
Clearly, integrating the positions of post-Keynesians and ecological economists on
growth is rather difficult. Their positions seem divergent in our terminology.
Nonetheless, a thorough investigation of the issue may result either in a
diversification of ideas or in a more apparent picture of the exact relationship
between each tradition’s theoretical presuppositions (see Kronenberg 2010); a similar
claim might be made about the relationship of Marxist and ecological economics (see
Burkett 2004 or Nelson 2001).
Finally, both the divergent and contradictory statements could be
operationalized in the form of an empirical (d) test of conflicting hypotheses. Robert de
Langhe (2010) mentions the possibility of an antagonistic pluralism where different
viewpoints are always perceived as opposing statements, neglecting the possibility of
Framework for Interested Pluralism
constructive integration. However, one could argue that such an “agreement to
disagree” might be productive for research if the claims of different traditions were
clearly shown to be antagonistic and, in turn, put to an empirical test. Overall, we
argue for acknowledging antagonistic relationships, specifically where it is clearly
shown that two statements are contradictory and where empirical evidence might at
least guide fair judgment. However, in our view, most internal disputes within the
heterodox community are not of this sort.
The conception of a pluralist paradigm, as outlined in this paper, is surely
demanding, and requires, above all, pluralist economists who are content — and
sufficiently flexible — to work in a pluralist tradition. They need to be able to carefully
compare different economic approaches and recognize their similarities and
complementarities, while retaining a patiently pragmatic stance on potential
contradictions, without ignoring them. They also need a more practical training in
order to establish pluralist thinking as scientific practice which, ultimately, is the main
concern of this article.
Much preliminary work has already been done on the first point. Lee (2010, 27)
provides a nice overview of ecumenical or conjoining contributions emanating from
the heterodox economic traditions, which could serve as a starting point for further
theoretical developments in this direction. However, the majority of these
contributions concern comparing only two or three different approaches, indicating
that there is still much room for further development. In a spillover-effect kind of
way, intensifying work along these lines could lead to greater numbers of “hybrid
scholars” (O’Hara 2008, 266) who could serve as an important transmission belt
between different economic schools of thought.
A pluralist conception of economics would also imply looking beyond the
traditional cleavages, directing additional awareness to novel and innovative
developments, even if they stem from non-traditional arenas of economic thought.
For instance, many dissenting economists relate to conceptions and traditions,
neglected by the current heterodox discourse. The field of economic geography (which
has itself been paradigmatically contested — see Boschma and Frenken 2006) provides
an example of such a development that has been overlooked by more traditional
heterodox and orthodox approaches (papers in economic geography, for instance,
heavily reference heterodox economic journals, but not vice versa; see Kapeller
2010a). Behavioral economics provides another example of a field that is often
dissenting in character, contested with regard to its paradigmatic orientation (see, for
instance, Frankfurter and McGoun 2002), and partly positioned orthogonally with
respect to the more traditional cleavages in economic discourse.
With regard to research practice, we suggest the creation of settings where a
pluralist approach to economic thinking is not only encouraged, but also practiced in
a cordial environment. A simple recommendation would be the introduction of cross-
school commentary sections in pluralistically oriented journals, where similarities,
Leonhard Dobusch and Jakob Kapeller
complementarities, and differences between various traditions can be discussed.
Providing such a forum would not only raise awareness of other approaches, but
might also provide a space where school-specific biases could be disentangled when
reviewing articles (as emphasized by Hopkins 2010), thereby channeling the friction
into a more constructive direction.
Lastly, we repeat what we deem to be the major assets of a “pluralist paradigm”
as a framework for interested pluralism. First, the concept could help synthesize the
“solved puzzles” of different economic traditions in a single corpus — and such a
competitor to neoclassical economics could build on a greater potential for empirical
explanation than any strand of dissenting thought could come up with in isolation.
This argument holds independently of whether a “paradigm shift” occurs via a
spontaneous “revolution” or a piecemeal “evolutionary” process (as in the Taylor-rule
case). Second, it could provide the various areas of economic thought currently
subsumed under the “heterodox economics” label with a much broader network of
journals and outlets, leading to a much greater citation network. Given the current
tendencies in scientific quality assessment — regardless of what one may think of a
pluralist paradigm, in general — this is a strategic imperative for the survival of
diversity in economic thinking. Third, such a pluralist framework could give rise to a
sole competitor to neoclassical economics. Given the knowledge we have obtained
about paradigms and their historical developments, this seems likely to be a
precondition for a more fundamental change in economics in the long run.
1. Lawson (2006, 485) provides a list of similar statements. Interestingly, Garnett (2006, 531-532)
attributes this definition also to Lawson’s own conception of pluralism. In this question we tend to
follow Lawson’s self-characterization as depicted in Lawson (2010).
2. Some authors call the attitude we subsume under “selfish” pluralism, “strategic pluralism” (De
Langhe 2010; Sent 2003; van Bouwel 2005).
3. See, however, Engelbert Stockhammer and Paul Ramskogler (2009), Lavoie (2009) or Matías
Vernengo (2010) for a critical appraisal of the arguments brought forward by David Colander,
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... Methodological pluralism has been gaining relevance not only within post-Keynesian economics but also within heterodox economics in general. The arguments in defense of pluralism within economic research are very diverse (Dow, 2008;Dobusch & Kapeller, 2012;King, 2013). From an ontological point of view, the recognition that the real world is an open, complex system subject to change leads to the justification that knowledge must be constructed from different reasoning and sources of evidence (Dow, 2008;King, 2013). ...
... From an ontological point of view, the recognition that the real world is an open, complex system subject to change leads to the justification that knowledge must be constructed from different reasoning and sources of evidence (Dow, 2008;King, 2013). From a methodological point of view, it can be argued that each research question is different and may require its own form of analysis; in other words, the question should determine the method, not the other way around (Dobusch & Kapeller, 2012). ...
... 27 Waller (2010) himself briefly exemplifies the concept of convergence with the case of institutionalist and post-Keynesian economics. 28 Starting from a conception of 'interested pluralism' as well as from the comparison at the level of theoretical statements between schools of thought, Dobusch andKapeller (2012, p. 1051) claim that '[w]hen statements do not differ in substance and are thus (1) identical, or deal in a theoretically (2) convergent way with complementary phenomena, attempting (a) theoretical integration seems the logical strategy to follow'. Like Waller (2010), he exemplifies this case by reference to institutionalism and post-Keynesian economics. ...
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The objective of this article is to carry out a review of the links between institutional and post-Keynesian economics, in order to raise the possible compatibility and even complementarity between the two branches of economic thought. To this end, we first review the question of compatibility from the perspective of institutional economics and then from the post-keynesian standpoint. Next, methodological issues are addressed by presenting the essential elements that characterize post-keynesian and institutional methodology (and internal debates in this regard) and then by describing the areas of compatibility between the two. The final section presents the main conclusions and summarizes the basic elements that could constitute a theoretical framework of synthesis between institutional and post-keynesian economics.
... The second step identifies core elements, compares them with each other, and judges them according to their divergent or convergent characteristics. The classification of the compatibility of both analyzed objects follows the provided grading scale in the research article of Dobusch & Kapeller (2012). Depending on the compatibility, the comparison grade relevant aspects as either (1) identical, (2) convergent, (3) compatible, (4) neutral, ...
... (5) divergent, or (6) contradictory (Dobusch & Kapeller, 2012). Evaluating the two theories' compatibility allows their synthesis, providing a conceptual bridge in the third step. ...
... As the introduction already describes, the comparison is made by grading the contrasted elements with the scale used by Dobusch & Kapeller (2012). The scales grade them as either (1) identical, (2) convergent, (3) compatible, (4) neutral, (5) divergent, or (6) contradictory. ...
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Degrowth, as a broad spectrum of proposals and advocacies, is united in the demand that economic activity must undergo a 'right-sizing' to a level that respects socio-ecological boundaries and the minimum social foundations that ensure a dignified and good life for all. From the demand to establishing societies and economies that stay within those boundaries, the question arises of what role the state has and to what extent particular political formats are suited to facilitate that. With the insight that the liberal state is incompatible with degrowth, the search for alternatives references the Kurdish Freedom Movement and the associated political format of Democratic Confederalism. Democratic Confederalism is a political format that calls for the abolition of the state and an inclusion of environmental protection and feminism. This thesis aims to determine whether Democratic Confederalism is a viable political format for degrowth societies. To fulfill the goals, a theory synthesis is used as the methodology to combine two different theories to generate knowledge that goes beyond the two theories on their own. The compatibility is determined by utilizing the Gramscian analysis and understanding of the state. This thesis examines whether Democratic Confederalism edits and handles actors and elements within the integral model sufficiently to allow the implementation of degrowth to measure their compatibility. The results of this thesis show that Democratic Confederalism and degrowth are compatible with each other and, thus, that Democratic Confederalism is a suitable political format for degrowth societies. Because Democratic Confederalism aims at dismantling hierarchical and centralized state structures, the material conditions, as well as actors and structures within the civil and political society, are sufficiently addressed to foster the advocacies that degrowth proposes. Those results further expanded the societal boundaries framework and suggested that Democratic Confederalism should continuously aim to manifest counter-hegemonies to facilitate the transformation and advocate consensus-based decision-making processes in their advocated councils.
... This requires what Dobusch andKapeller (2012, p.1043) call interested pluralism: a "constructive interaction between different theoretical traditions in order to come up with an improved and expanded set of relevant explanatory statements." 1 A deep theoretical integration of different economic paradigms necessarily requires a critical reflection of the metatheoretical foundations at hand (Dow, 2009;Gräbner and Strunk, 2019;Spash, 2012). According to Fleetwood and Ackroyd (2004, p.20) a metatheory is a "non-disciplinary category that refers to everything in the realm of thought outside theory and empirical work" and thus relates to underlying suppositions on what exists (ontology), what can be known (epistemology), how we can know something (methodology), and the normative foundations of our reasoning (ethics). ...
... Judgmental rationality means that there is usually a theory that has a greater explanatory power than others -while all knowledge is fallible, some knowledge is more adequate than other knowledge, subject to certain caveats and contingencies. Dobusch andKapeller (2012, p.1041) summarise this epistemological argument, as the crux of why we need pluralism in economics: "Assuming that science aims at providing knowledge that is in some way superior to, say, religion or gossip, it should engage in some kind of 'sorting' -that is, attempting to differentiate between better and worse explanations, while still acknowledging that all explanations are principally fallible." ...
... The authors distinguish interested pluralism from selfish pluralism, which regards other heterodox schools of thought as strategic allies against neoclassical economics but ultimately aims at becoming the new economic mainstream, and disinterested pluralism, which encourages the coexistence but not the integration of different economic schools of thought (Dobusch and Kapeller, 2012). 2 Bhaskar takes the concept from Locke (1999Locke ( /1690) who holds: "in an age that produces such masters as the great Huygenius and the incomparable Mr. Netwon […], it is ambition enough to be employed as an under-labourer in clearing the ground a little, and removing some of the rubbish that lies in the way to knowledge." ...
In this paper, I defend the view that pluralism in economics needs to be metatheory-informed and that critical social scientists must reflect upon their underlying ontological, epistemological, methodological, and ethical assumptions. As a feminist ecological economist interested in making degrowth (more) feminist, I ask to what extent a critical realist metatheory can ‘philosophically underlabor’ a feminist degrowth approach. This paper introduces Critical Realism (CR) and critically examines it in Ecological Economics, Degrowth, and Feminist Economics debates. Subsequently, I draw on the example of care to show how a CR metatheory can elucidate how the deep, underlying structure of separation in economics is responsible for the devaluation of care. I conclude that if combining a realist-relational ontology, an intersectional and postcolonial feminist standpoint epistemology, critical methodological pluralism, and an ethical foundation centering around the sustainability of life, a CR metatheory can serve a feminist degrowth approach well.
... Other heterodox economists argue for pluralism to increase intellectual competition (Beckenbach, 2019;Heise, 2016) which is arguably a minimal form of intellectual exchange. A disconnected stance is branded and repeatedly rejected as 'scattered pluralism' (Bigo and Negru, 2008), 'disinterested pluralism' (Dobusch and Kapeller, 2012) or 'antagonistic Pluralism' (De Langhe, 2009). Incommensurability is perceived untenable. ...
... For instance, Feyerabend is not quoted in Marqués and Weisman (2008, p.118), who write that "pluralism is welcome, but that it should comply with the minimal rules of good argumentation: not with 'anything goes'". But in a paper in which they are quoted the reference to Feyerabend is simply added (Dobusch and Kapeller, 2012). ...
... As already pointed out, the ideal of aiming for 'one true description of the economy' is important to many, whilst there is a discourse about the means to reach this goal. As pointed out above, pluralism is considered a key-element to reach that ideal, if all participants strive for it (De Langhe, 2009;Dobusch and Kapeller, 2012). It is very uncommon for scholars to disqualify those categories as 'lower instincts' or as 'craving for intellectual security'. ...
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This article critically discusses the scope for decolonizing economics teaching. It scrutinizes what it would entail in terms of theory, methods, and pedagogy, and its implications for scholars grappling with issues related to economics teaching. Based on a survey of 498 respondents, it explores how economists across different types of departments (economics/heterodox/non-economics), geographical locations, and identities assess challenges to economics teaching, how they understand the relevance of calls for decolonization, and how they believe economics teaching should be reformed. Based on the survey findings, the article concludes that the field’s emphasis on advancing economics as an objective social science free from political contestations, based on narrow theoretical and methodological frameworks and a privileging of technical training associated with a limited understanding of rigor, likely stands in the way of the decolonization of economics. Indeed, key concepts of the decolonization agenda—centering structural power relations, critically examining the vantage point from which theorization takes place and unpacking the politics of knowledge production—stand in sharp contrast to the current priorities of the economics field as well as key strands of IPE. Finally, the article charts out the challenges that decolonizing economics teaching entails and identifies potential for change.
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After the global financial crisis, hopes were high that there would be a pluralisation of the economics discipline and a boost for heterodox economics that challenged dominant economic models. However, mainstream economics once again proved its enormous resilience and the future of alternatives to this mainstream is anything but certain. Geoffrey Hodgson's new book on this issue has sparked fresh discussions about the stunted development of heterodox economics and proposals for possible ways forward. This article will argue that the crucial factor for the future of heterodox economics is not converging on a single unified paradigm or raising the quality of research, but rather gaining access to different kinds of capital, first and foremost professorial positions at universities. Such access is severely restricted under present conditions as a result of epistemological and ontological discrimination. Heterodox economics can only flourish if the epistemic community of economists embraces paradigmatic pluralism as part of their academic culture, or if regulations are put in place to secure access to such capital and so to academic freedom.
The article discusses the difference between mainstream and heterodox economics in terms of their implications for a theory of economic policy. It characterizes these two strands of thought according to two criteria: how to assess economic performance and how to envisage economic coordination. They underlie the distinction between a price-centered approach of the mainstream and a heterodox institution-centered approach. The distinction is not only important for theoretical clarity. It also points to a major conclusion, that is, that if heterodox economists neglect the differences between these two approaches and rely on a commonly shared "playing field," the risk is that they may disregard the potential economic and societal change that a heterodox perspective warrants.
The current discussion on theoretical and methodological pluralism is plagued with confusions and misunderstandings. Some problems arise because an appropriate framework for conducting a fruitful discussion about these issues is still lacking. Many other problems derive from the fact that a rational pluralist should be both tolerant with the many different points of view and able to discriminate among them. In the first and second sections we use some of Mäki's ideas for developing a general framework for discussing pluralism and apply it to the ongoing debate on theoretical and methodological pluralism, showing its strong compromise with demarcationism. In the third section a looser framework for approaching pluralism is outlined, and a detailed discussion of Caldwell's critical pluralism is conducted, pointing out its achievements and some of its shortcomings. The fourth section provides an outline of what a sound notion of restricted pluralism should encompass for avoiding "anything goes".
This book offers a comprehensive overview of the structure, strategy and methods of assessment of orthodox theoretical economics. In Part I Professor Hausman explains how economists theorise, emphasising the essential underlying commitment of economists to a vision of economics as a separate science. In Part II he defends the view that the basic axioms of economics are 'inexact' since they deal only with the 'major' causes; unlike most writers on economic methodology, the author argues that it is the rules that economists espouse rather than their practice that is at fault. Part III links the conception of economics as a separate science to the fact that economic theories offer reasons and justifications for human actions, not just their causes. With its lengthy appendix introducing relevant issues in philosophy of science, this book is a major addition to philosophy of economics and of social science.
Over the last few years, there has been a flurry of articles claiming that neoclassical economics had changed, questioning whether mainstream economics even ought still to be called neoclassical economics, or discussing the future of post-Keynesian economics or the future of heterodox economics at large. David Colander (1996, 2000, 2003, 2009a, 2009b) has been in the vanguard of this movement, along with Colander, Holt and Rosser (2004, 2007-8), but they have been accompanied by many more authors such as Davis (2006, 2008), Garrett (2006) and Fontana and Gerrard (2006), with contributions to specific concerns of post-Keynesian economics by King (2002) and Davidson (2005), not forgetting the abundant writings of Tony Lawson (2006, 2009a) . Very appropriate responses, in my view, have been written by Dutt (2003), King (2009a, 2009b), Lee (2009), Vernengo (2009) and Stockhammer and Ramskogler (2008). On many occasions, browsing through yet another of these papers giving advice to heterodox or post-Keynesian authors, I have been tempted to get into the discussion, but I have relented to do so up to now, thinking that I would be wasting my time, and also because, as mentioned above, some of the responses have been quite adequate. I cannot but confess that I have experienced a great deal of frustration reading some of the advice being offered by colleagues, some of which have themselves hardly ever attempted to publish any empirical work or formal models. As a result of this, I now have some sympathy for neoclassical authors who have invested heavily in technical tools and refuse to reply to outside methodological critiques. Be that as it may, here is my take on all these issues. I will try not to vent my frustrations, achieving this by outlining without much controversial comment the various suggestions which have been made. I start by outlining the past evolution of post-Keynesian economics. I then present a nomenclature that should help to clear out the distinction between orthodox and heterodox economics. I then list and assess the things that post-Keynesians have been told not to do, followed by the positive advice that they have been asked to follow. I finish with advice that I very much agree with, as well as my own suggestions…
John King has written a powerful, interesting, and useful History of Post Keynesian Economics. King states that although Post Keynesian theory mounted a major challenge to orthodox macroeconomics in the last few decades, it has “ultimately failed to supplant it” (2002, p. 1). The object of this book is to explain (determine?) why Post Keynesianism did not supplant orthodox macroeconomics (p. 1).
1. The purpose of this note is a very humble one; it is an attempt to eliminate certain causes of unnecessary confusion. In the last ten years much has been written both by professional economists and by laymen on the methodology of economics. Some of this as it seems to me, has been concerned with live issues — with issues, that is to say about which intelligent men may well differ even when they have become fully aware of each other’s premises. But some of it seems to rest upon misunderstanding and to relate to issues upon which there is no real dispute once the question is clearly stated. This note merely attempts to separate out some of these issues, particularly those that relate — or are thought to relate — to the vexed question of the status of realistic studies — to separate the quick from the dead in order that we may not any longer be encumbered by the latter. I hope that the absence of references will not be misunderstood. It would be easy enough to indicate the authorship of the misconceptions which are mentioned; and in certain cases the temptation has been strong. But I cannot help thinking that the purpose of the note is better served by deliberately refraining from assigning responsibility for what may seem to be obvious error. The issues are intellectual, not personal.