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Reproduction, deconstruction, imagination. On three possible modi operandi of economic education



Purpose: Current economic education is in urgent need of reform – both in terms of content and in terms of didactics. This paper aims at contributing to this reform by outlining possible directions economic education might take or combine in a purposeful way. Design/methodology/approach: This article considers economic thinking as interpretative institutions and identifies three possible types of handling these institutions in the context of economic education. All of the types are developed in a comparative analysis from existentialist educational philosophy and subsequently brought into dialogue with recent discourses and practices of economic education. Findings: Whereas reproducing relies on a largely unconscious passing on of economic interpretation schemes, deconstructing them fosters their pejorative penetration. Imagining aims at the development of new interpretation schemes that allow for economic thinking and action in resonance with a tangible life-world. A possible interrelation of the three modi operandi is being outlined in the conclusion.
Article 21
Journal of Social Science
Vol. 19, No. 3 (2020)
DOI 10.4119/jsse-3378
pp. 22-39
Reproduction, deconstruction, imagination
On three possible modi operandi of economic education
Lukas Bäuerle
Cusanus Hochschule für Gesellschaftsgestaltung
Keywords: Economic education, institutions of thought and practice, pluralism,
neoliberalism, educational philosophy
- Within economic education institutionalized economic interpretation schemes are
being passed on.
- This paper sketches out three possible modi operandi of passing on these schemes.
- Reproducing relies on a repetitive and largely unconscious teaching process.
- Deconstructing aims at a critical penetration and relativisation of interpretation
- Imagining creates new schemes in order to be able to cope with the tangible life-
Purpose: Current economic education is in urgent need of reform – both in terms of
content and in terms of didactics. This paper aims at contributing to this reform by
outlining possible directions economic education might take or combine in a purposeful
Design/methodology/approach: This article considers economic thinking as interpre-
tative institutions and identifies three possible types of handling these institutions in the
context of economic education. All of the types are developed in a comparative analysis
from existentialist educational philosophy and subsequently brought into dialogue with
recent discourses and practices of economic education.
Findings: Whereas reproducing relies on a largely unconscious passing on of economic
interpretation schemes, deconstructing them fosters their pejorative penetration. Ima-
gining aims at the development of new interpretation schemes that allow for economic
thinking and action in resonance with a tangible life-world. A possible interrelation of
the three modi operandi is being outlined in the conclusion.
Corresponding author: Lukas Bäuerle, Cusanus Hochschule für Gesellschaftsgestaltung, Bahnhofstraße 5,
54470 Bernkastel-Kues, E-mail:
Reproduction, deconstruction, imagination 22
“Human life is not simply ‘lived’, it is constantly being construed, interpreted, understood in terms
of a ‘meaning’” (Fink, 1970, p. 17).1 What pedagogue and philosopher Eugen Fink expresses with
this sentence is not just common sense in philosophical anthropology or existential philosophy.
Understanding and pursuing human beings in their perhaps most essential traits as interpreting
and meaning-generating beings is also one of the cornerstones of contemporary social research,
e.g. in institutional economics (Hodgson, 2006, p. 2). As human beings we are never ‘raw’, but
move from the earliest days on in a medium of meaning, interpretations, language, stories,
images, of ritualized relationships with the world and with ourselves. And even what we as
groups, communities or societies consider to be conceivable and feasible, appropriate or taboo-
ed, is determined, negotiated and passed on in substantial parts in such “interpretative schemes”
or “frames (Deutungsmuster)” (Keller, 2005, section 26).
Against such a background, political economy and economics can be understood as producers
of interpretative schemes about ‘the’ economy. Michel Foucault, for example, has identified it as
an essential characteristic of modern economic thinking that it is able to present abstract
thoughts as truths in a credible manner, subsequently shaping collective practices (Foucault 2006
[1978-79]). Not the understanding but the production of realities thus seems to be an essential
feature of economic thinking (McKenzie, Muniesa & Siu, 2007; Mirowski & Nik-Khah, 2017, p.
130; Bäuerle 2020). The supposedly simple question of what ‘the’ economy actually is makes it
clear that the primary object of interest is not simply ‘there’, like the crystal is for a geologist.
What we consider ‘economy’ is always dependent on interpretation. It might even be said that
‘the’ economy is this interpretation, or that it becomes this interpretation as soon as we collec-
tively perceive, talk and act in terms of the interpretation at hand.2
Anyone taking such a stance towards economic thinking will find that the supposedly ‘core
truths’ or ‘laws’ of economics to be precarious. Rather, on the one hand, the specific cultural,
historical, political and economic conditions that promote or prevent this or that narrative,
interpretation or image about the economy come into focus. This is what research programmes
such as the Social Studies of Economics (Maeße, Rossier, Pühringer & Benz, 2020) or research on
economic imaginaries (Beckert, 2016; Ötsch & Graupe, 2018 & 2020) are trying to do. On the
other hand, within such a research programme, different forms or modes of the transmission of
economic narratives, interpretations or images enter centre stage. In what way is economic
knowledge produced and passed on? It is precisely this interest that is the subject of this article. I
do not approach the object of investigation of economic interpretation schemes by disclosing
them in a discourse-analytical way, by arranging them in schools or by tracing them back to their
origins in genealogical terms. Rather, I would like to outline three different ways of dealing with
economic interpretation schemes and enable an analytical distinction between them. Not the
what of these interpretation schemes, their content, but the how of passing them on is thus the
focus of my interest. I will illustrate this using the example of economic higher education.3 The
paper takes into account sociological research on the field as well as methodological debates and
individual case studies in economic higher education. Although it thereby provides empirical
examples of the theoretical distinction introduced, the paper should neither be misunderstood as
its empirical justification nor as a ready-to-use didactical approach. It rather aims at introducing a
new interpretation scheme that allows for a differentiation of three pedagogical practices of
handing on interpretation schemes.
In order to pursue this aim, I will refer to existentialist educational philosophy, especially the
works of Maxine Greene and Eugen Fink. As already indicated, this point of reference in
educational theory is only appropriate because the handing down of socially shared interpretation
schemes is, as it were, the main subject of educational considerations (Fink, 1970, p. 59 f.). Both
Reproduction, deconstruction, imagination 23
authors mentioned offer a formulation and demarcation of reproductive (Chapter 2), decon-
structive (Chapter 3) pedagogies and finally imaginative (Chapter 4) ways of dealing with
interpretation schemes. All of them will be reflected within the field of economic higher educa-
tion. Although I consider a fundamental change in economic higher education to be necessary, I
would like to highlight in advance that I do not want to play off the three types against each
other, but rather outline their respective characteristics as precisely as possible in order to allow
for a conscious pedagogical decision between them. In the final conclusion (Chapter 5) I will
discuss possible relationships between them.
In his 1970 book ‘Erziehungswissenschaft und Lebenslehre’, Eugen Fink deals with the basic
question of different ways of dealing with the phenomenon of human meaning-making. His
starting point is the systematical and historical unveiling of the mythical character of inter-
pretation schemes in what he calls the ‘closed society’. Although he by no means wants mythical
or closed societies to be understood as undervalued (Fink, 1970, p. 48), he emphasizes with
reference to the latter:
“They move within an atmosphere of meaning, without actually ‘producing’ any
meaning; they consistently confirm a mode of living that is inherently encompassed,
but they do not create it themselves, they reproduce, but do not produce a human
sense of existence.” (Fink, 1970, p. 104)
Closed societies operate on foundations of meaning which they for their part do not question or
criticize. They rather allow for their status to remain inviolable, even sacred. Thus these mythical
foundations of meaning are also superordinate to the fields of technology, science and arts.
Everything that can be known or done must in the last instance be related to the myth, or be
meaningfully interpreted and justified within its framework (ibid., p. 66). Thus the myth can never
be thought and acted upon, but always only in and with it. As a synonym for the concept of myth,
Fink also chooses that of the ‘ideal’ and underlines:
“The most powerful and most pulling force in the educational power of an ideal, its
magic, lies in the fact that it understands itself, that it simply exerts a man-shaping
violence ‘for no reason’, without a why and without justification, and that only within
its field of meaning do people justify themselves - before it.” (ibid., p. 20)
The ideal is thus given, in a fundamental sense evident and non-negotiable. The meaning of life
does not have to be found, criticised or interpreted; it must above all be followed and passed on.
However, this standard itself is not explicitly stated. Fink speaks of a largely “unconscious” (ibid.,
p. 106) modus operandi of the closed society, which needs not name its most formative and
important institutions: “Being is standardized by itself, but has no insight into its own draft of
norms” (ibid., p. 163). The central task for those responsible for education and educational
institutions is to maintain the repetition, as accurately as possible, of the inscribed interpretation
schemes: “The educator behaves reproductively, he is an imitator” (ibid., p. 108). And what is to
be reproduced or imitated is rooted in the collective ideal image: “Bildung is subordinated to the
image, education to the drawing ideal” (ibid., p. 170), “practice only carries out what theory has
outlaid” (ibid., p. 208). In such an understanding of human interpretative activities, the educa-
tional goal is achieved when the ideal at hand is also followed by future generations (cf. ibid.; see
also p. 209). Teaching is thus not carried out for the sake of the educational subject, but for the
Reproduction, deconstruction, imagination 24
sake of the ideal; so that the collective custom may continue to be kept alive and unchanged in
collective thinking and practices.
While Fink develops a systematic elaboration of societies and educational institutions that
cultivate a closed, reproductive approach to interpretation schemes, Maxine Greene deals with
the same phenomenon from a decidedly critical perspective, taking into account the effects of a
reproductive pedagogy on contemporary social life. In her essay collection “Releasing the Imagi-
nation. Essays on Education, the Arts, and Social Change”, in an echo of Fink's understanding of
the myth, Greene chooses the metaphor of the ‘motionless cloud’, which overshadows her field
of work as a social theorist: “It is the cloud of givenness, of what is considered ‘natural’ by those
caught in the taken-for-granted, in the everydayness of things. I also think we have to hold in
mind that the modern world is an administered world structured by all sorts of official languages”
(Greene, 2007, p. 196). In contrast to Fink’s remarks on the closed society, which repeatedly
allude to supposedly ‘archaic’ or at least pre-modern societies, Greene describes it as an essential
feature of modern societies that they operate in a mode of the given and the natural, in many
places guided by the ‘managed’ and the ‘structured’. She identifies language to be the primary
medium of socialization in such a mode. And she adds that the specific language of the ‘official’
and ‘given’ is usually to be conceived of as an instrument of power:
“More often than not, they are the languages of domination, entitlement, and power;
and there are terrible silences where ordinary human speech ought to be audible,
silences our pedagogies ought somehow to repair. The modern world is, as well, a
world where what we conceive to be our tradition is petrified, located in private
enclaves, or surrounded by auras that distance it from lived experience, from the
landscapes of our lives. Too few individuals are being enabled to crack the codes, to
uncover that in which they are embedded, to appropriate visions and perspectives
legitimately theirs.” (ibid.; see also p. 9)
In contemporary educational institutions, learners were understood as “passive receivers of pre-
digested information” (ibid., p. 34) and eventually educated to live a “mechanical, conforming,
robotic life” (ibid.). According to such an understanding, pedagogical communication degenerates
into a one-way road in which the learners, as with Fink, only have to receive or embody an al-
ready established educational outcome. They are not actors, but objects of the educational
process, and even this only in so far as they comply with the objectives set by others. For Greene,
living through such an educational experience and having to learn the language belonging to it is
an expression of modern, institutionalised power relations and must be rejected.
With reference to Jürgen Habermas, who criticizes the ‘distortions’ of a contextless commu-
nication (ibid., p. 46), she finally expands her diagnosis of the contemporary educational process
by a consequential aspect, which is then also prominently reflected in her positive draft of
educational processes (see chapter 4). Thus education for and in the given and the language
through which this given is evoked has a directly corrosive effect on social references, on which
personal and also cultural developments so urgently depend on. For in the language of the given,
the references are already set, but set abstractly in a sense that corresponds to the logic and
legitimacy of the educational contents and structures. However, these references need not
necessarily have anything to do with the thoroughly intertwined life and experience of the
learners. Against this background Greene admonishes:
“They [the students] must not be resigned to thoughtlessness, passivity, or lassitude
if they are to find pathways through the nettles, the swamps, the jungles of our
time. Nor can they be left to the realm of separateness and privacy that makes
community so difficult to achieve and alienates the fortunate from those who remain
tragically in need.” (ibid., p. 34)
Reproduction, deconstruction, imagination 25
Greene’s primary educational task is thus the formation of a “critical community” (ibid., p. 198),
in which everyone has levelled opportunities to communicate and improve the way they live.
However, such a society is prevented precisely where people in educational contexts have to
learn a language that is designed to survive traditional dogmas and which wraps the legitimacy of
this language in the aura of unquestionable legitimacy or normality. Such a language does not
encourage a confrontation with the world, but at best allows the adoption of a passive, repro-
ductive attitude in favour of the fulfilment and continuation of an externally induced norm (ibid.,
p. 19 & 180).
If we now want to use these pedagogical considerations for a deeper understanding of econo-
mic higher education, we should first of all, for terminological reasons alone, make reference to
the recently published volume of Walter O. Ötsch (2019), in which he describes contemporary
societies as fundamentally mythical societies. The collective interpretation schemes of “econo-
mized societies” (Ötsch, 2019, p. 14) are also based on unquestioned categories that now,
paradoxically, have a scientific, namely economic, origin.4 With reference to Mises and Hayek,
Ötsch reconstructs it as an essential momentum of neoliberal or ‘market radical’ thinking that the
legitimacy and origins of ‘The Market’5 must not be questioned. At best, one should think within
and on the basis of Market results, namely the price signals, but not beyond them. The fact that
people cannot and must not deal with the background of the meaningful mediator named The
Market can be seen as the central power base of radical market thinking. Such an undertaking
would be tantamount to a ‘Pretence of Knowledge’ (F. A. Hayek) and would violate the humility
that humans have to show towards the The Market (see Ötsch, 2019, p. 83 ff., 438). Thus the
mythical character of market radical thinking is epistemologically circularly secured - the
postulate of a superhuman performance of The Market is grounded in the myth (to be followed)
of a superhuman performance of The Market. Not an argument, but an imperative guarantees the
superiority of The Market. What remains to be done in such an understanding is to submit to The
Market and reproduce its ‘laws’. In this sense, radical market thinking is governmental thinking in
Foucault’s sense par excellence, which “aims to create a social reality that is simultaneously
presupposed as already existing” (Bröckling, Krasmann & Lemke, 2000, p. 9; my translation). In
this respect, radical market thinking is strictly speaking not productive, but reproductive thinking,
since it tries to iteratively realize idealiter presumed concepts in the tangible life-world.
In the context of a mythical market society understood in this way, economic higher education
can be reflected as a significant institution within which the myth is reproduced as a collectively
dominant horizon of meaning and passed on to future generations. In the sense of the two
philosophers consulted here, it would be decisive that within education, the myth is not rationally
being justified or revealed in its intellectual basic structure. Such a stance would certainly
relativize or even threaten the unquestionable and thus stabilized myth. In the sense of repro-
duction, the pedagogical practice is rather dependent on a mode of incessant repetition in an
aura of unquestionability. In fact, recent analyses of the dominant didactic medium, the economic
textbook, show that they rely both on a permanent repetition of the given on one hand and on an
omission of contextualizing or relativizing aspects of the dominant narrative on the other hand
(Bäuerle, 2017, p. 266; Graupe & Steffestun, 2018). This applies both with regard to potential
alternatives for approaching economic phenomena from a methodological or theoretical point of
view (van Treeck & Urban, 2016; Rebhan, 2017), and with reference to the philosophical
(Graupe, 2016) or historical (Klamer, 2007, p. 230) contextualization of a market dogmatism
itself. Colander (2007, p. 47) summarizes it as follows:
“Students have little sense of background to the debates or the techniques and do
not understand why they developed and of what use they are. Instead, the students
are thrown into the particular approach, and a particular technique, and told to learn
Reproduction, deconstruction, imagination 26
A more recent empirical survey also shows that, from the perspective of undergraduate
economics students themselves, heteronomous framing is as much a part of their study experi-
ence as the tacit self-evidence of a mathematical approach and the absence of real-world
references or contextualisation of contents taught. Both aspects are promoted by a communi-
cative culture that largely prevents discussions and relegates students to what Maxine Greene
calls “passive reception” (Greene 2007, p. 124) (Bäuerle, Pühringer & Ötsch, 2020, p. 156):
Cm: in all these lectures there is no discussion about anything, it’s just, it’s just (.)
one sender and many receivers and it’s not reciprocal, it’s hardly reciprocal and
there is no questioning and it’s just neoclassical <laughing>
Bm: standard(theory)
An escape from this mode, through the expression of doubt or critical questioning for instance,
often leads to the defence and ultimately the substantiation of the dominant dogma (cf. ibid.).6
Especially the strong focus on highly abstract study contents that offer students no connection
to their (economic) life experiences, combined with rigid teaching, examination and modu-
larisation settings, promotes the experience that Greene calls ‘silencing’: the loss of a linguistic
ability with regard to one’s own life processes (see also Graupe, 2016; Düppe, 2009, p. 55 & p.
122 f.). At the same time, the now reproduced ways of life and meanings in the context of
economic higher education are becoming a new normality, which in turn form a resonant
interrelation with dominant narratives of an economized society (Bäuerle, 2020).
Whereas for ancient mythical societies, a reproductive handling of collective interpretation
schemes certainly provided coherence and stability, today this modus operandi can mean a real
danger for individuals, disciplines, but also societies - namely when the reproduced interpretation
schemes prove to be dangerous or harmful to their survival. Such a case seems to exist in the
context of economic higher education, where traditional interpretation schemes not only do not
enable graduates to deal with economic and financial crises (Kapeller & Ötsch, 2010), ecological
(Liu, Bauman & Chuang, 2019; Green, 2012) or social disparities (van Treeck, 2016), but also
undermine a sheer awareness of such realities.
Nevertheless, and this seems to me to be of paramount importance, a reproductive mode in
dealing with interpretation schemes is by no means to be rejected or condemned categorically.
After all, such a quasi-automatic and unconscious mode - according to the cognitive sciences for
example - constitutes over 90% of cognitive processes (cf. Lakoff & Johnson, 1999, p. 13). The
reproduction of acquired thought, language and patterns of action and of emotional and physical
practices as an omnipresent ‘background noise’ is thus crucial for a successful and meaningful
social life. Nevertheless, these interpretation schemes may be reconsidered and changed in the
sense of a critical or creative development - for example in the light of crises to be overcome.
An approach to interpretation schemes that are to be sharply distinguished from reproductive
ones can be seen in what I would like to describe here with the practise of deconstruction. Let
alone the etymology of the term suggests a dismantling or disintegrating character, whereby
here, too, a moment of construction and thus of production still remains.7 A deconstruction of
collective interpretation schemes cannot be equated with their destruction. Rather, it is to be
described as their productive degradation.
Fink identifies this approach as a historical and systematic countermovement to the closed
society and assigns it to the Enlightenment and, beyond that, to what Nietzsche called ‘European
nihilism’ (see below). Fink considers science as a specific social institution that cultivates and
promotes this approach. And he characterizes the Enlightenment as a scientific and rationalistic
Reproduction, deconstruction, imagination 27
penetration of the world, driven by the sting of doubt: “Every genuine science [is, L.B.] - finds
itself in a constant ‘fundamental crisis’. [...] All sciences are always questioning themselves and
are endlessly carried on by a radical self-distrust” (Fink, 1970, p. 44).8 The objects into which this
sting of doubt is projected are the traditional interpretation schemes (of a socially valid morality,
for example, or of disciplinary paradigms), which are no longer taken for granted, but rather sub-
jected to a sceptical decomposition:
“Critical reflection disintegrates the traditional custom, has a community-dissolving
effect, breaks and destroys a beautifully bound form of life.” (ibid., p. 85)
“A completely different tendency in life awakens with ‘reflection’, with the critical,
suspicious, heretical spirit, with the self-assertion of individual reason against the
great traditional powers, with the desire for doubt, for scepticism, for the des-
tructive power of negation.” (ibid., p. 110)
With the ‘individual’ character of reason, it is also indicated that the actor of this deconstruction
is no longer a collective but an individual. One can say that the deconstruction of interpretation
schemes is a critique of the individual against society:
“The self does not sacrifice itself for the ‘general’, does not strive to be its
pure expression and mouthpiece, but boldly takes its own side, tries to exist at its
own risk. This is not only an intellectual movement, but also a moral one. It is the
urge for emancipation, for free self-assertion in one’s own self-consciousness, an
urge for independence.” (ibid.; see also p. 111)
Instead of protecting and passing on long-standing myths, narratives and traditions, they are
now being shaken to their very foundations. In their meticulous and argumentative inter-
penetration, their constitutive contradictions, historical contingencies and irrational elements are
revealed and rationally explained. Max Weber called this process the “disenchantment of the
world” (Weber, 2004 [1919], p. 13). On the one hand, it leaves behind a myth that has become
questionable and lifeless, which no longer enjoys any binding force, and on the other hand, it
leaves behind scientifically founded interpretation schemes, which indeed initiate an enormous
expansion of theoretical and technically usable knowledge, but which in turn is no longer
able to raise a closed or coherent world view (cf. Fink, 1970, p. 100 & 137 f.). Thus, follow-
ing Fink, the emancipated subject is on the one hand freed from the collective ballast of
tradition, but on the other hand no longer knows about a binding meaning of its existence or
can at best develop such a meaning to the limits of its own existence. A fragmentary, boundless
coexistence of quite different and contradictory interpretation schemes emerges, with drastically
limited binding forces for social cohesion. In the successive disappearance of socially binding
interpretation schemes, this ‘nihilism’ is addressed, which Nietzsche proclaimed in a diagnostic
way with the proclamation of the ‘Death of God’ and which receives the name of post-modernism
during the course of the 20th century. For Nietzsche, it basically consists of the following: “That
the highest values devalue themselves. The aim is lacking; ‘why?’ finds no answer” (Nietzsche,
1968 [1887], p. 9).
Furthermore, and here the ‘Dialectic of Enlightenment’ (Horkheimer & Adorno, 2002 [1944])
comes into play, the piercing doubt carries a real danger in itself, inasmuch as it always
remains antagonistically related to something to be deconstructed, which in turn it needs, but
nevertheless destroys. Even a decidedly scientific endeavour still lives from cultural, e.g. linguis-
tic, traditions that it has not produced itself, that it seeks to deconstruct rather than to
reproduce. “There is no more fitting image for this result than the parable of the man who
successfully saws off the branch he is sitting on” (Fink 1970, p. 137 f.). Such blindness towards
Reproduction, deconstruction, imagination 28
one’s own conditions of existence can ultimately threaten the existence of a deconstructive
approach to interpretation schemes; precisely when the doubt does not also extend to the
scientific self and thus ultimately becomes dogma itself.
Fink and Greene assess the “disbelief in metanarratives” (Lyotard, 1984 [1979], p. xxiv) as a
loss also against this background. Greene (2007, p. 2), for example, writes in a clear delineation
from postmodernism:
“I also feel deeply dissatisfied with what postmodern thinkers describe as ‘bricolage’,
or ‘collage’, that style of communicating often thought suitable for the present
time, when old myths, oppositions, and hierarchies are being overthrown.” (Schrift,
1990, p. 110).
It is far from her intention to interpret a collage of the most diverse narratives as a virtue or gain
and to implement it pedagogically. As chapter 4 will show again, she focuses on integrating
approaches or languages, which do not leave people in their individual interpretation schemes.
Fink, too, is critical of a pluralism of unconnected juxtapositions that has arisen through de-
construction (cf. Fink, 1970, p. 197).
Such a deconstructive approach to interpretation schemes certainly results in a completely
different educational process than is the case with reproductive educational processes. The focus
does not lay on unquestioned transmission, but rather on a scientific penetration of an objectified
world, divided into various subjects and disciplines. Learners are not trained as bearers of
myths, but as critical subjects or objective observers who can approach phenomena in a methodi-
cally controlled and intersubjectively comprehensible way. This understanding of education is
oriented towards an ideal of ‘adequacy’, i.e. a correspondence between intellect and matter.
Fink speaks of the scientific ideal of theoretical truth” (ibid., p. 36) and at the same time criti-
cally notes that according to this ideal man is primarily being perceived as a thinking (but not as
an acting) being. Due to the absence of a central dogma, on the one hand, deconstructing
educational processes are freer and more open. This holds true for its potential contents as well
as for its forms (didactics). On the other hand, however, it becomes incomparably more difficult
for educators to choose appropriate contents and forms; a necessity and burden that educators in
reproductive educational contexts do not have to deal with. What can, what should be taught?
Based on which justifications? At what point can learners be considered competent or educat-
ed? What are standards for good and evil, for right and wrong? These are questions to
which no binding answers can be given in a deconstructive setting (cf. Fink, 1970, pp. 168 &
Even if, as explained in chapter 2, standard economic higher education today exhibits compre-
hensive reproductive traits, a worldwide discourse on its critical and decidedly plural readjust-
ment was sparked at the latest by the financial and economic crisis of 2008 (cf. ISIPE 2014).
Contents have been criticized as too one-sided, abstract and unquestioned, their forms as too ri-
gid, and boring. Some of the courses, platforms or even curricula that have been developed in
this context critically deal with standard economics. The online platform Exploring Economics
and the newly founded study programs, institutes or even universities in Bernkastel-Kues
(Cusanus Hochschule für Gesellschaftsgestaltung), Duisburg-Essen (Institute for Socio-
Economics) or Siegen (M.A. in Pluralist Economics) are just a few examples of impulses from the
German speaking area alone.
On the other hand, and in the sense of a post-dogmatic economic higher education, these
teaching innovations also rely on a variety of interpretation schemes of the economic in the
broadest sense (theories, methods and disciplines), which allow a new, different approach to
the phenomenon of the economy. Within this discourse, pluralism (of theories, methods and
disciplines) has been established as a central concept. Its antagonistic demarcation from standard
economic approaches is a conventional means and necessarily rests upon the relation of critical
Reproduction, deconstruction, imagination 29
discourses to the central dogma that (still) needs to be deconstructed (cf. the overview by
Düppe, 2009, p. 220). Slowly but steadily novel, pluralistic educational programmes nowadays
do not only offer a multifaceted and multi-perspective critique of their standard economic
counterparts, but also offer further interpretation schemes, in and through which economics can
be interpreted.9
Nonetheless, and this is occasionally reproached by mainstream representatives, the new inter-
pretative diversity is no longer united by a unifying ‘metanarrative’ or paradigm. Certainly,
overcoming the dominance of a single such paradigm was the ultimate aim of a decidedly
deconstructive pluralism in the first place. If successful, this kind of pluralism seems (at first) to
be leading to what Bigo & Negru (2008, p. 134) call a “scattered pluralism” or what Kapeller &
Dobusch (2012, p. 1043) call a “disinterested” or even “selfish” pluralism; a pluralism of co-exis-
tent but separate paradigms or schools working separately according to their own interpretative
procedures. Such forms of pluralism, however, are usually dismissed as deficient against the
tacit background of a monistic or even dogmatic understanding of (economic) science.
To summarise: a deconstructive approach to interpretation schemes does not take anything
for granted or as self-evident. It is characterized by constant restlessness in working through
potential patterns of meaning, which through these upheavals always take on new faces. This
leads to an expansion, but also to an uncertainty of human knowledge, since more is known,
but the question of the ‘why?’ of this knowledge can no longer be answered in a satisfying and
socially binding way. The economic heterodoxy offers a rich spectrum of such knowledge
stocks, to which economic higher education programs can tie up and which can at least
intellectually break up, revolutionize and supplement a consolidated orthodoxy. If the associated
intention is to be able to think differently or more than those who have been trained in standard
economics, then such pluralistic training also exists in relation to a dogma to be deconstructed.
It lives in and from a progressive difference and differentiation and thus ultimately also from the
standard economic dogma itself. This seems at least implicitly to represent the ‘why?’ of a good
part of the movement for more pluralism in economics. An understanding of pluralism that is to
be distinguished from this one arises with a further approach to collective interpretation
schemes, which explicitly starts with the question of the meaning of human (or here: econo-
mic) thought and action and in this way makes the genuinely new and socially shared the very
core subject of educational processes.
For Maxine Greene as well as for Eugen Fink it can be considered the underlying intention of
their educational philosophical work to develop a viable alternative to reproductive or decon-
structive approaches in the field of education. Although their alternatives differ in some res-
pects, they do share some central commonalities, which will now be discussed and made
fruitful for the field of economic higher education.
A first decisive break from reproductive or deconstructive procedures lies in the determination
of the actors of interpretative and, among them, especially educational processes. Where
the transmission of unquestioned myths is performed by a largely unconscious collective,
guided by socially recognized guardians of these beliefs, i n the archetype of deconstructive
dealings with interpretation schemes it is the daring individual who works by means of his own
mind. Greene and Fink contrast these two types of actors with a dialogical ‘critical community’
(Greene) and a ‘counselling community’ (Fink). These educational communities are egalitarian
with regard to central facets of their activities and try to produce a conscious, i.e. linguistically
composed educational experience in a joint reflection process. In this sense, it is productive
communities that Fink (cf. Fink, 1970, pp. 111 ff.) and Greene have in mind, in the double
sense that they create their interpretation schemes and, as it were, consciously produce
themselves within them:
Reproduction, deconstruction, imagination 30
“In thinking of community, we need to emphasize the process words: making, cre-
ating, weaving, saying, and the like. Community cannot be produced simply
through rational formulation nor through edict. Like freedom, it has to be achieved
by persons offered the space in which to discover what they recognize together
and appreciate in common; they have to find ways to make intersubjective sense.
[…] It is a question of what might contribute to the pursuit of shared goods: what
ways of being together, of attaining mutuality, of reaching toward some common
world.” (Greene, 2007, p. 39)
What is decisive here is that the individual is neither absorbed in a collective mass, nor that the
individual stands completely on its own, but that it enters into co-existence based on a free
decision, realizes it as an activity in order to finally also produce something together: “she or he
feels what it signifies to be an initiator and an agent, existing among others but with the power
to choose for herself or himself” (ibid., p. 22; see also p. 167).
The products of such a common process are, as already mentioned, the constitution of the
educational community itself and, once again, interpretation schemes. Through the creative
and conscious process, as well as in their relation or contextualization, these interpretation
schemes overcome the quality of those that we had come to know in reproducing and
deconstructing processes. A starting point for the systematic further development is the
insight that an unquestionable reiteration as well as an incessant critique runs the risk of finding
itself trapped in an idealistic loop (in the philosophical sense of the word). Put more simply:
there is a threat of losing the tangible life-world. For both procedures focus on the content of
an interpretation, but not on the productive generation of the relata of a nd in an interpretative
relationship (i.e. human being and world). The belief in myths and a deconstructive pluralism, in
their strong reference to ideals, images, or more generally speaking the sphere of interpretation,
threaten to lose sight of a world of phenomena to be understood or changed. Greene and Fink
therefore develop their approaches to education consistently directed towards the world and the
possibilities of interpreting and ultimately shaping it. The interpretation schemes generated by
educational communities are thus always related to a world that the members of the same
inevitably share, interpretatively cope with and to a certain extent also produce.
The question of dealing with interpretation schemes is thus transferred to the question of
dealing with the world. The ‘world’ is not an external, objective phenomenon that could be
described in a distanced way. Both philosophers know about the contingency and dependence of
the outside on the interpreting inside. But instead of getting involved in a boundless mirroring of
the world in the light of the most diverse possibilities of interpretation, they propose to use,
also in the sense of an empowerment, this interpretative potential in favour of the interpreters
as well as the interpreted. The activity of interpreting thus gains a measure and a limit, a
reference to something or someone that will never be conclusively outlined or caught up by any
interpretation. This addresses, as it were, the insight into the limitations of the interpreter as
well as the interpreted (cf. Greene, 2007, p. 26). Both carry within them a moment of
unavailability: while the interpreter never knows enough or satisfyingly how to interpret correct-
ly, the interpreted can never be captured or ‘mapped’ conclusively. This applies not only to the
interpreters as a community, but also to them as individuals.10
For this open modus operandi, the term of imagination shall now been introduced. The under-
standings of imaginative educational processes represented here are always dependent on a
common language, which, although supported by other aesthetic forms of expression, must
ultimately lead to a common language again. Educational processes are thus primarily and
constitutively dialogical processes that cannot be without open communication or ‘consul-
tation’ (cf. Greene, 2007, p. 5). Against this background, Greene describes her understanding of
Reproduction, deconstruction, imagination 31
“To call for imaginative capacity is to work for the ability to look at things as if they
could be otherwise. To ask for intensified realization is to see that each person’s
reality must be understood to be interpreted experience - and that the mode of
interpretation depends on his or her situation and location in the world. […] To tap
into imagination is to become able to break with what is supposedly fixed and
finished, objectively and independently real. It is to see beyond what the imaginer
has called normal or ‘common-sensible’ and to carve out new orders in experience.
Doing so, a person may become freed to glimpse what might lie, to form notions of
what should be and what is not yet. And the same person may, at the same time,
remain in touch with what presumably is.” (Greene, 2007, S. 19)
Fink’s ‘pragmatic perception’ is also an imaginative, i.e. productive, quality:
“In a stronger sense, each act of perception is pragmatic, which not only accom-
plishes the discovery of facts, but rather produces the perceived in perception. [...]
Man never brings forth the things of nature through his perception, but he brings
forth the meaningfulness of the human world as creative finite freedom - and here
perception and production can coincide.” (Fink, 1970, p. 39)
“Imagination also has a most positive power. It is a dealing with the possible -
certainly, with that which is not. But in this way it also opens up paths for freedom,
breaks open spaces for action: the unreal becomes the model for what is to be
realized.” (Fink, 1970, p. 127; see also p. 189)
What is decisive and sharply to be differentiated from speculative or utopian procedures is that
both Greene and Fink’s imaginative educational processes refer to concretely lived or liveable
practice. Not the multifaceted configuration of a platonic u-topos, a non-place, or the con-
templative heightening of an inwardly directed consciousness (cf. Greene, 2007, pp. 25 f.), but
the imagination of a concretely realizable collective option for action is the ‘result’ of the edu-
cational processes understood in this way. And for both Fink (1970, p. 24 f.; see also p. 99) and
Greene, this innovation goes beyond the naming and reassurance of common (thoroughly crisis-
laden) practice. It can allow for transformative practices as well, that allow for shaping shared
reality beyond the presumably ‘given’ world (Greene, 2007, p. 177).
In an educational process understood in this way, on the one hand - qua practice - the
reference to the world is established, but at the same time the possibility of transcending in
practical terms is opened up. It is thus not a theoretical reference to practice and the world
that re objectifies it and distances the actor (or learner) from it. In this respect, no decidedly
theoretical knowledge is generated, although theoretical knowledge must certainly be consulted
in order to be able understand (post)modern practices shaped by theories: “But the ‘theoretical’
is now in a service function” (Fink, 1970, p. 37). What is proposed is rather a rethinking and
discussion of common collective practice in order to imagine something ‘new’ (Greene) or ‘crisis-
solving’ (Fink) at the edges of this ability to think and speak. This imaginative practice is always a
world-oriented one: “our transformative pedagogies must relate both to existing conditions and
to something we are trying to bring into being, something that goes beyond a present situ-
ation” (Greene, 2007, p. 51).
By avoiding a rift between thinking and acting, the question of the ‘transfer’ of theoretically
developed knowledge into practical (or technical) execution of the same becomes obsolete
(cf. Greene, 2007, p. 210). Finally, the negotiation and transformation of practice is now itself
the central object of the educational process. Even if this negotiation in its imaginative poten-
tial may already be regarded as productive in itself, the options for action considered must
Reproduction, deconstruction, imagination 32
ultimately prove their worth: “The self-binding nature of human freedom in the decision to
possibly be able to do the imagined gives the project the actuality of an action” (Fink, 1970, p.
127). The act is no longer negotiated as a distanced phenomenon that can be described, but as
a changeable topos of common reflection. In a situation in which the meaning and purpose of
human existence has become fragile, in which a passive repetition as well as an incessant criti-
cism have become questionable, there still remains the path of a common articulation of a
common purpose in and through jointly considered practice. The participants are not formed as
believers, knowers or doubters, but as common and conscious shapers of their experienced
Notwithstanding these numerous intersections in Greene’s and Fink’s educational philosophy,
one central difference should be pointed out here. As with Fink, the common educational pro-
cess is more urgently and pointedly related to a shared need or even crisis. His ‘counselling
community’ considers the common practice with regard to its immanent crisis-ladenness and
against this background to the ‘crisis-solving’ which promises to overcome shared distress:
“The most important basic feature of common counselling is the exposure of all to a
shared need and danger. One finds himself sitting in the same boat [...] The under-
standing openness for the common threat awakens the concerned conver-sation
in which an understanding of the meaning of the situation and a saving way out is
sought” (Fink, 1970, p. 185).
In this respect educational activity is a common concern, which works with an urgency to-
wards a decision (cf. ibid., p. 190), which is to be done in view of the crisis: This applies
to the manifold fields of human action: to politics, to moral self-determination, to technical
work - and to education” (ibid., p. 187). And one can imaginatively add: this also applies to the
The planned character (cf. ibid., p. 99) of social practice that emerges from such a counselling
process sharply contrasts with Greene’s educational process, which is designed for the moment
of opening practices: “But the role of imagination is not to resolve, not to point the way, not to
improve. It is to awaken, to disclose the ordinarily unseen, unheard, and unexpected” (Greene,
2007, p. 28). For Greene, the real ‘crisis’ that educational institutions have to deal with today is
that young people are not able to name their experiences. Especially if these experiences also
consist in an economic, political, ethnic, gender-related, etc. marginalization, then purely repro-
ductive educational processes threaten to perpetuate these injustices. Young people are then not
only not given a language to describe their experiences, but they are also denied the opportunity
to develop a language for new experiences on their own:
“We have to be articulate enough and able to exert ourselves to name what we see
around us – the hunger, the passivity, the homelessness, the ‚silences‘. There
may be thought of as deficiencies in need of repair. It requires imagination to be
conscious of them, to find our own lived worlds lacking because of them.” (ibid., p.
Greene counters this with an educational process that enables people to open, find and change
their language: “The young can be empowered to view themselves as conscious, reflexive
namers and speakers if their particular standpoints are acknowledged, if interpretive dialogues
are encouraged, if interrogation is kept alive(ibid., p. 57). At the same time, it underlines the
didactical necessity to offer learners a plurality of languages (of interpretation schemes) in order
to actually find his or her tone. This must go beyond verbal or mathematical languages into
aesthetic forms of expression, which is why Greene and the educational institutions that refer to
her11 make the study of arts in the broadest sense (painting, music, poetry, etc.) a core
Reproduction, deconstruction, imagination 33
component of their didactical work.12
However, this plurality of languages is transformative in the strict sense of the word only
when they are used by learners in relation to their collective practice. Only when language is
used to describe common experiences and to open up new experiences does what Greene calls
a “critical community” emerge (ibid., p. 196). Strictly speaking, this community then has no
common language (or identity, nationality, etc.), but makes it (see ibid., p. 59). In this perfor-
mative turn lies, as with Fink, ultimately also the categorical break with the Enlightenment, inso-
far as common values are no longer bindingly known, but made. With reference to Richard Rorty
and the common values formulated Greene summarizes: “The point is to try to live by them and
make more and more inclusive the number of people to which ‘we’ refers” (ibid., p. 194; see also
p. 70).
Where already deconstructing approaches to interpretation schemes showed a distance to
standard economic h i g h e r educational practices, imaginary approaches seem even more dis-
tant.13 Nevertheless, recent advances such as those by Robert Shiller (2019) show that an exa-
mination of the phenomenon of verbal language (or other aesthetic forms of expression)
should be of the greatest interest, at least for economic research, precisely because of its social
impact, i.e. its creative potential. On the one hand, Shiller raises this undertaking in the sense of
a social responsibility of economists who do not simply observe economic phenomena, but
rather bring them straight to life through their observations and thus also bear a respon-
sibility for a crisis-laden economic reality (cf. ibid., p. xvi f.). On the other hand - and decisively
- he once again takes the detour of generating theoretical knowledge about narrations and their
possible effects, in order to ultimately be able to improve the predictability of the future in the
present (cf. ibid., xiii ff.). This approach is to be distinguished from initiating narratives or ima-
ginations about current or possible economic practices together with others (at least the
peers). Shiller observes narratives; he does not want to make them (although he certainly
knows that observation itself is creative).
His access to language is problematic, however, mainly because knowledge of it is ultimately
placed at the service of a theoretical dogma. Narratives are conceptualized as “important, largely
exogenous shocks to the aggregate economy” (Shiller, 2017, p. 968) and the knowledge gene-
rated about them is thus used to better understand or improve in some way what is understood
by ‘aggregate economy’. Interpretation schemes in the form of narratives are thus understood
as phenomena external to the economy, but potentially threatening it pandemically. They are
not perceived and conceptionalised as openings to a new understanding and practice of
economic activity itself.
A familiar approach to economic higher education can be found in the proposals of Moosavian
(2016) or Hartley (2001, see esp. pp. 152 ff.). Here, graphic visualizations or ‘Great Literature’
are used in the service of standard economic theory. This approach does not open the space for
interpretation, but merely changes the medium and didactics of the interpretation to be
reproduced. Although their didactics also allow for open interpretations in parts, the extensive
didactics based on paintings of Watts and Christopher is ultimately also geared towards reflect-
ing predefined economic “concepts and issues” in selected works (cf. Watts & Christopher, 2012,
esp. pp. 418 f.).14
The Leipzig deliberation seminars follow a categorically different path. Their didactical
approach, originally developed by the ‘Forschungsgruppe Erwägungskultur Paderborn (cf.
Benseler, Blanck, Greshoff, Loh, 1994) and subsequently refined for teaching purposes (cf.
Blanck, 2002), was used at the University of Leipzig over 24 semesters by Friedrun and Georg
Quaas in the field of economic higher education. The core element of deliberative didactics is the
discussion and preservation of alternative perspectives - in the Leipzig case in the form of aca-
demic texts - on a given problem or phenomenon (cf. Blanck, 2002, p. 9 ff.). The consideration of
different alternatives should not lead to their accumulation or their mutual deconstruction, but
should ultimately sharpen an awareness of the limitedness but also the potential of each
Reproduction, deconstruction, imagination 34
alternative. The process of deliberation itself is the decisive factor here, insofar as not only
the handling of a phenomenon is considered, but also the discourse ethics of social
interaction.15 Both facets (content and form) of the deliberation process thereby encourage a
permanent self-reflection, which lead to an extensive documentation of the seminars.16
Although the pedagogical setting is established around the common practice of deliberating and
imagining, it remains open to what extent the texts dealt with are able to promise or possibly
also to change a collective practice outside the seminar context (i.e. in experiences of
globalization, for example) (see also Quaas & Quaas 2015, p. 4).
It is precisely this question that is addressed by the didactical approaches of Marc Casper,
who lets students themselves generate a literary approach to economic phenomena and a
common understanding of ‘economy’ consistently from the shared student narratives about
their economic experiences (cf. Casper, 2019). Through their reflected and dialogically shared
experience, students develop an understanding of what the economy could or should be. His
work with masterstudents points in a similar direction and aims to develop a common under-
standing of the “meaning and value of the entrepreneurial” starting from the practices and sense-
making processes of the seminar participants (cf. Casper, 2017, p. 3). In both teaching
concepts, students are encouraged to develop interpretation schemes for the category and
subsequent practices of the economy (or the entrepreneurial) together and in the discussion of
their social experiences.
In a transdisciplinary context, the I.L.A. workshops also aim at developing a new sense of the
economic and subsequently initiate concrete projects of socio-ecological transformation. Its
starting point is an examination of the concept of the ‘Imperial Mode of Living’ (cf. Brand &
Wissen, 2018), which describes the collective practice of Western societies in a global dimension
and notes its devastating effects on societies and nature. Although the primary interpretation of
collective practice is thus subject to a strong (albeit widely documented) interpretation and
illustrated by numerous examples of everyday economic practice (see I.L.A. Kollektiv, 2017),
the declared intention of their educational work is to engage in an open exchange about possi-
ble ways towards “a solidary coexistence on our planet”.17 The process of changing interpre-
tation schemes is consequentially carried out in order to change common practices. Further-
more, the teaching design of economics courses at Cusanus University also try to enable students
to creatively shape economic facets of their lives, constantly considering and altering the
relationship between economic thought and action. Using the example of a module on the
‘Contexts of Economic Action’, Johanna Hopp and Theresa Steffestun describe how such a
connection can be implemented and didactically grounded in modularized Bachelor courses in
economics and what challenges such an approach involves (Hopp & Steffestun, 2020).
These impressions of imaginative ways of dealing with economic meaning-making in the
context of economic higher education are by no means exhaustive. However, they give an
impression that, firstly, they are not as far away as one might assume and, secondly, that they
are contributing in quite different ways to a renewal of economic thought and action.
This article has investigated three different ways of dealing with the phenomenon of (economic)
interpretation schemes: reproduction, deconstruction and imagination. In conclusion, I would like
to emphasize once again that an exclusive decision for one of the approaches is in my view
problematic, perhaps even illusory. What should deconstruction be directed against, if no
reproduction would have taken place in the first place? How can we imagine without the critical
impulse of a doubting deconstruction? And how is the imagined ultimately to be established if it
is not reproduced? It seems important to me that at least the educator be aware of the po-
tential diversity, function and perhaps also dangers of these three (and possibly other)
Reproduction, deconstruction, imagination 35
approaches. Against the background of the evident dangers for hu mankind and nature exem-
plified by a quasi-mechanical reproduction of market-related beliefs, future economic higher
education must undoubtedly include deconstructive and imaginative approaches.
However, educational goals and didactical procedures should not only be based on disci-
plinary awareness, but also on an awareness of student motivations for dealing with econ-
omics and on a knowledge of the life-world in which students (must) live during and after
their studies of economics. After all, they are the ones who have to grapple with ecological,
economic, political and other social challenges in and with the interpretation schemes they have
learned. Standard economic higher education currently lacks both a life-world orientation and an
orientation towards student motivations (see Pühringer & Bäuerle, 2019), which greatly
increases the danger of students losing their sense of meaning. Instead of pouring abstract
economic ‘meaning’ into them in the manner of Paolo Freire’s container (Freire, 1981 [1973], p.
57) and hoping that this pedagogical practice will make sense for someone or something,
students should be invited to question the conditions of economic thought and action in cen-
tral areas of the curricula and, beyond that, to develop and live out their own foundations of
meaning and objectives of economic practice.
For instance, a historical as well as philosophical deconstruction of dogmatic economic education
and its contents could itself serve as an introduction to economic education. What kinds of
economic discourses as well as practices do students experience in their daily lifes? How would
standard economic education frame these experiences? When, why and how did the interpretation
schemes offered by economics or by different sources actually evolve? By raising awareness for
the contingency, deviations and possible alternatives for economic thought and practice, a course
or even curriculum could subsequently cross over to more imaginative elements. Crucially, these
considerations should always be bound to real-world experiences and challenges, thereby omitting
a purely idealistic looping of interpretative schemes. In order to allow for inclusive counselling
processes, the experience will most commonly be collective experiences (e.g. climate crisis,
tackling the Coronavirus pandemic, national economic policies). Teamwork practices, free spaces
for catching up with the collectively learned and rather reflexive examination procedures (e.g.
presentations, essays, portfolios) could complement the learning experience and allow for specific
problems for smaller groups or individuals. In a final stage, the perspectives gained could be
complemented or even translated into processes of institutionalization, thereby empowering
students to actually reproduce their insights and visions in their respective contexts. Possibly, this
step could transcend the classroom and actually reach into the realms where students’ economic
experiences and questions actually root.
Economically educated people should not only be able to recite or criticize and contextualize
scientific theories or market-related dogmas, but should also be able to produce their own and
increasingly shared images and practices of what the economy and economic action could mean.
How else will future economists be enabled to participate in a public, democratic discourse
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1 All translation of the quotations of Fink were carried out by myself. The pedagogical writings of Fink still remain
2 That this applies precisely to the real of ‘the’ economy can be seen, for example, by referring to the pre-dominant
methodological focus in contemporary economics. It is not a common object through which a unity
of the field of
‘economics’ is produced (discursively), but rather the access, the interpretation of economics (cf. Becker, 1978, p. 5;
Mankiw & Taylor, 2014, pp. 17 & 30).
The professions’ ‘oblivion of the life-world’ in the course of its formalisation
Reproduction, deconstruction, imagination 39
has substantially promoted this
primarily interpretative self-image (cf. Düppe, 2009 for the historical origins of this
epistemic self-understanding of economics).
3 The main tenets of the framework offered within this paper can certainly be adopted from economic tertiary education to
economic secondary education. In fact, both Greene and Fink developed their philosophy of education with strong
references to secondary education (without ever excluding tertiary education due to a rather general, philosophical
outlook). Still, especially when it comes to didactics as well as the modulation of the three types outlined, differentiation
of secondary and tertiary level will be crucial but will not be made topic of this paper.
4 On the religious origins of economic thought, see Agamben (2011). On its conceptualization as religious thought,
see Nelson (2001).
5 I follow with this notation those of Mirowksi and Nik-Khah (2017) and Ötsch (2019). On the one hand, it points to
anthropomorphic character of The Market, which is granted human capabilities as an independent actor.
On the other
hand, it refers to the metaphysical character of The Market with superhuman qualities and abilities, which, among other
reasons, give it a primacy over political processes (see Ötsch, 2019, p. 10 ff.).
6 See: “Those being contested often react with increased self-assertion. So it can also happen that the external
impulse to
self-criticism turns into a dogmatic self-assertion and uncritical consolidation, its salvation turns into
the opposite” (Fink,
1970, p. 11).
7 On this ambiguous history of the term see Weimar, Fricke, Müller (2007, p. 335).
8 This is less true of economic research, where Walter O. Ötsch & Silja Graupe in particular have presented a
of economic thinking as pictorial or imaginative (see Ötsch & Graupe, 2018; 2020). See also Beckert, 2016.
9 In this context, see the Exploring Economics platform (online, last access 2 6.03.2020): https://www.exploring-
10 This insight also leads to a changed role of the teacher. She or
he also no longer knows definitively what is to be
reproduced or deconstructed (cf. Fink, 1970, pp. 177 f., pp. 221 f.).
He or she, too, must expose himself or herself to a
process of interpretation that is open in principle, into which
he or she knows how to bring in more experience and
possibilities of interpretation, as it were, but which he or she, as the person responsible, must (under)support above
all. In addition to specialist
knowledge, such an educator is therefore urgently dependent on a process knowledge of
basically open educational processes. This shift ultimately also reflects the shift of a given world of observable things
(and things to
be reproduced) towards a world emerging at the moment of interpretation.
11 See (online, last access 26.03.2020): and
12 This diversity of expression is also relevant for future specialists. For they too, in their specialization, never
lose the
necessity to name their concretely experienced life world together with others (ibid., p. 57 f.).
13 This is less true of economic research, where Walter O. Ötsch & Silja Graupe in particular have presented a
of economic thinking as pictorial or imaginative (see Ötsch & Graupe, 2018; 2020). See also Beckert, 2016.
14 Cf. the extensive image collection and its didactic preparation (online, last access 26.03.2020):
15 It thereby shows a strong familiarity to what Dobusch & Kapeller (2012) sketch out as ‘interested pluralism’.
16 Cf. for the Leipzig seminar (online, last access 26.03.2020): For
seminars see
17 See also (online, last access 26.03.2020):
... Consequentially, further pluralistic perspectives have been suggested to be incorporated in economics education (e.g. Admas, 2019; Brant, 2015;Bäuerle, 2020;Graupe & Steffestun, 2018;Pühringer & Bäuerle, 2018;Shanks, 2018;Ötsch & Kapeller, 2015). Maton (2014) describes this struggle as 'an epistemic relation clash between insights that offer competing visions of the nature of the field ' (p. ...
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The article pursues the two related questions of how economists pretend to know and why they want to know at all. It is argued that both the form this knowledge has taken and their motivation for knowing have undergone a fundamental change during the course of the 20 th century. The knowledge offered by important contemporary economic textbooks has little in common with objective and explicitly scientifically motivated knowledge. Rather, their contents and forms follow a productive end, aiming at the subjectivity of their readers.
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5 Silja Graupe, Theresa Steffestun "The market deals out profits and losses"-How Standard Economic Textbooks Promote Uncritical Thinking in Metaphors-Standard economic textbooks exhibit a massive and implicit use of metaphors.-This tacit use of metaphors may deceive the student reader and encourage uncritical thinking.-Critical reflection in economic education can encourage and enable a responsible use of metaphors. Purpose: Cognitive Linguistics has repeatedly pointed out the major significance of metaphors. In particular, metaphors are highly effective in the context of political and economic discourse. We analyze the as yet ignored use of metaphors in standard economic textbooks as exemplified by Paul A. Samuelson and N. Gregory Mankiw. The following will focus on the metaphorical semantic context surrounding the abstract concept of "the market". Design: Using textual analysis and drawing from Conceptual Metaphor Theory the authors examine how the concept of "the market" is introduced as an abstract and primarily empty concept, (re-)interpreted with the help of entity metaphors, personifications and orientational metaphors, and linked to ideological and political value judgments. In addition the analysis illustrates how the use of metaphors in textbooks is not made transparent, nor is a critical reflection of the metaphorical rhetoric encouraged. Findings: In conclusion, based on their own teaching experience, the authors, addressing both teachers and students, outline possibilities of promoting the critical and conscious use of metaphors, not only in textbooks but also in public discourse.
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In this paper, we explore how principles of economics courses prepare undergraduate students to think about climate change. We collected a comprehensive list of twenty-seven introductory economics textbooks in the United States and analyzed their coverage of climate change. Our finding shows that not all texts touch upon climate science, and a small subset deviates from the scientific consensus on the human causes of climate change. All texts conceptualize climate change as a problem of carbon emission’s negative externalities and the preferred market-based solutions, such as emission trading and Pigouvian tax. Besides externality, some authors include various useful points of engagement through GDP (Gross domestic product) accounting, economic growth, collective action problems, cost–benefit analysis, and global inequality. In the end, we provide suggestions for economics educators to innovate the current introductory curriculum to better cope with the climate crisis.
In contrast with conventional histories of “economic rationality,” in this book we propose that the history of modern microeconomics is better organized as the treatment of information in postwar economics. Beginning with a brief primer on the nature of information, we then explore how economists first managed their rendezvous with it, tracing its origins to the Neoliberal Thought Collective and Friedrich Hayek. The response to this perceived threat was mounted by the orthodoxy at the Cowles Commission, leading to at least three distinct model strategies. But the logic of the models led to multiply cognitively challenged agents, which then logically led to a stress on markets to rectify those weaknesses. Unwittingly, the multiple conceptions of agency led to multiple types of markets; and the response of the orthodoxy was to shift research away from previous Walrasian themes to what has become known as market design. But internal contradictions in the market design programs led to a startling conclusion: just like their agents, the orthodox economists turned out to be not as smart as they had thought. A little information had turned out to be a dangerous thing. © Philip Mirowski and Edward Nik-Khah 2017. All rights reserved.