6 Continuing myths and fallacies of modern economics
mathematical modelling that is responsible for this persistent lack
of realisticness, and that in an open complex social reality the
production of unrealistic formulations is not a temporary contingent
state but inevitable. Much better then to focus the critique on the
modelling emphasis per se (see all chapters below, but especially 4,
8 and 9).
7 The project of seeking to mathematise the economics discipline is a relatively
modern one, and its dominance has been achieved through the project’s
signiﬁcant explanatory successes.
Not at all. It is a project that has been underway for over 200 years.
And the current dominance of the mathematical modelling endeavour
within the academic discipline owes nothing to explanatory successes
(see this volume, especially chapters 1, 5, 6, 7 and 11), something to
the manner in which mathematics was reinterpreted by mathe-
maticians themselves in the early years of the last century (see Lawson
2003, chapter 10, or this volume, chapters 4, 7 and 11), and much
to politics (see especially Lawson 2003, chapter 10 or this volume,
Concerning theoretical/philosophical issues
8 Economics can and should avoid ontology.
To the contrary, the recent neglect of ontology is a major reason the
myths and fallacies of the sort here being criticised have prevailed.
Ontology is the study of the nature of being. Like all forms of
philosophy, ontology plays a ground clearing role for science. But this
does not mean that scientists, whatever their domain of study, do not
need to engage in it at signiﬁcant moments in the advancing of causal,
and indeed all other forms of, knowledge. Many physicists for
example concern themselves with investigating the basic material of
reality when they inquire into the nature of quantum ﬁelds, ‘dark
matter’, particles and waves, mass, curved spacetime, quantum
gravity, black holes, etc., all issues in ontology. Economics too has its
more basic concerns. These include such matters as social relations,
collective practices, social positions, community, capitalism, money,
corporations, technology, gender, rights, obligations, human nature,
care, trust, crises, economy, and so forth. Yet most economists,
if inevitably occasionally referencing such categories, do rarely
investigate their nature. However, it is impossible to provide much
insight without at least some understanding of the nature of both
social being in general and also the speciﬁc social phenomena being
‘theorised’. These issues, all concerns of social ontological analysis,
are easily shown to constitute part of the subject-matter of any
would-be serious social science (see this volume chapter 5; also see
Lawson, 2012a, 2012b, 2014a, 2014b, 2015a, 2015b).