On the problem of formalism in economics

G. Hodgson

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In his Reorienting Economics, Tony Lawson cites this magnificently appropriate quotation by Mark Blaug (1997, p. 3): Modern economics is sick. Economics has increasingly become an intellectual game played for its own sake and not for its practical consequences for understanding the economic world. Economists have converted the subject into a sort of social mathematics in which analytical rigour is everything and practical relevance is nothing. I believe that on this issue, Lawson, Blaug and I are in agreement: the victory of technique over substance is a chronic problem within modern economics. Although the victory of formalism can be dated to the 1950s (Blaug 1999, 2003), by the 1980s the problem had become much more serious. Because mathematics has swamped the curricula in leading universities and graduate schools, student economists are neither encouraged nor equipped to analyze real world economies and institutions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-124
JournalVoprosy Economiki
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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