Sunday, December 11, 2011

Stephen Marglin on Heterodox Economics

I have lots problems with Marglin's views, not just on heterodox economics, but on the mainstream too. Marginalism (neoclassical economics), the supply and demand story that emerged in the 1870s, is not simply about efficiency. It is about a certain type of efficiency (factors of production are fully utilized). There are different views of efficiency, and certainly that was the case for the authors of the surplus approach (Smith/Ricardo/Marx), for whom efficiency was essentially about capital accumulation, i.e. the wealth of nations. Also, the problem is not that the mainstream ignores income distribution, but that it provides an untenable position on income distribution (to each according to its productive). In contrast, for the surplus approach authors income distribution depends on class conflict.

From my point of view, Marglin is very close to presenting a post-modernist view of critiques of the mainstream, that is, several alternatives to the mainstream are acceptable, as the much as the mainstream is. This is Deidre McCloskey's view that economics is about the rules of conversation, rhetoric. I'm more of a realist, I think there is an external reality independent of my views about it, and that there are, besides logical aspects, facts that allow us to discern between theories that are not correct (the mainstream) and theories that have not been proved wrong (classical-Keynesian). For my view on heterodoxy read this.

PS: Marglin's syllabus here. Thanks to Pedro Américo for the tip.

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