Pluralism = Liberalism + Institutionalism + Structuralism

Pluralism = Liberalism + Institutionalism + Structuralism

In the history of ideas in social sciences, we can distinguish between liberalist, institutionalist and structuralist methodological approaches. They differ in the range to which they build explanation on individuals and their preferences, on institutions and their rules, or on system dynamics. A pluralist (master) course should include theories or aspects from each epistemological tradition, even though the course may specialize on a certain paradigm, if this is made transparent.


The equation of Pluralism=Liberalism+Institutionalism+plus Structuralism makes sense. But may I suggest it also needs to include how to apply ideas in practice? Perhaps you may like to add "+practices of achieving outcomes" to your equation?

In order to develop a cr!itical approach to economics, students have to know the main "isms" and not only what one considers the "best one", if we want to be pluralistic. Just as an example, van StaverenĀ“s book Economics after the crisis is a very good example of this approach.

On the question if "isms" are necessary in economomic education: from a critical understanding of science that considers science as a condensation of societal power relations, "isms" are build into the scientific process a priori. The attempt to teach "value free science" or to follow a pragmatic "making the worls a better place" approach (e.g. following the 2030 Agenda) would be then a more disguised form of ideology.

@Mike Joffe: Space is too constraint here to make a rigorous point, but a critical epistemology is not relativist in the sense that it gives away the idea of truth, scientific progress and a sound understaning of the economy.

...The criterion would then be to include one school of each tradition in a pluralist master, not 10 school of thoughts.

Why intellectual overburden students with knowledge of the various "isms" and simply teach the theories and practices of making the world a better place?

I agree that teaching lots of "isms" is potentially a burden - and off-putting for many students. It also has the danger of leading to over-abstraction. The solution is easy: teach using a particular event or phenomenon as the central focus, with the attention on the *various relevant types* of evidence (not just statistical). Then examine the perspectives, paradigms, hypotheses or whatever you want to call them in relation to how well they explain the evidence. Simple!

The problem is, the "critical understanding of science that considers science as a condensation of societal power relations" does not explain the success of science in bringing about a secure understanding of how the world works. If you want an economics in the image of this conception of how to generate knowledge, all you will do is produce elaborated ideology. You will not understand the economy and how it works, so won't be able to use such knowledge to protect humanity or the environment.

There are successfull textbooks and courses that already apply follow the idea of the three meta-paradigms of liberalism, institutionalism and structuralism, see e.g. See also the Exploring Economcis orientation section, where ten schools of thought are identified within the three meta-paradigms.

This particular way of categorizing 'schools of thought' seems fine to me, though I can imagine other ways of doing this sort of taxonomy. In any case, an effort has to be made at the minimum requirements for theoretical pluralism. Otherwise, any standard neoclassical program that teaches, say, a module on behavioralism would be considered 'pluralist' despite being essentially orthodox. It's troubling that the word 'heterodox' doesn't seem to have appeared in any of these points thus far.

One further point for clarification: We may distinguish between the categorization that can be found on (and the research EE is built on ). This categorization proceeds from ontological, epistemological, methodological, axiological and ideological categories and finds 10 different approaches that differ in these five categorial groups sufficiently to distinguish them as schools of thought...

[see first half of comment below] ...The criterion for a pluralist master would be then to relate to this type of meta-theoretical categorisation and to include the 10 schools of thought in economics. As it may be include 10 schools of thought, one could group those 10 schools in liberal (neoclassical, Austrian, behavioural), institutionalist (Post-Keynesian, complexity, evolutionary) and critical/structuralist (feminist, ecological, Marxian) approaches....

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