Thursday, December 04, 2014

Economics hegemony

Sociologists decry the ascendance of economics in the social sciences. See also Venn diagram for economics, Confessions of an economist, and Summers and Shleifer:
(Ellison, an anthropologist, was Dean of the Graduate School under Summers.)
Over lunch not long after Summers took over the presidency in 2001, Ellison said, Summers suggested that some funds should be moved from a sociology program to the Kennedy School, home to many economists and political scientists. ''President Summers asked me, didn't I agree that, in general, economists are smarter than political scientists, and political scientists are smarter than sociologists?" Ellison said. ''To which I laughed nervously and didn't reply."
The Superiority of Economists (Max Planck - Sciences Po discussion paper). Via Orgtheory. Krugman comments (highly recommended).
Abstract: In this essay, we investigate the dominant position of economics within the network of the social sciences in the United States. We begin by documenting the relative insularity of economics, using bibliometric data. Next we analyze the tight management of the field from the top down, which gives economics its characteristic hierarchical structure. Economists also distinguish themselves from other social scientists through their much better material situation (many teach in business schools, have external consulting activities), their more individualist worldviews, and in the confidence they have in their discipline’s ability to fix the world’s problems. Taken together, these traits constitute what we call the superiority of economists, where economists’ objective supremacy is intimately linked with their subjective sense of authority and entitlement. While this superiority has certainly fueled economists’ practical involvement and their considerable influence over the economy, it has also exposed them more to conflicts of interests, political critique, even derision.

... Some fifteen years ago, Richard Freeman (1999: 141) speculated on the origins of this conviction. His assessment was candid: "[S]ociologists and political scientists have less powerful analytical tools and know less than we do, or so we believe. By scores on the Graduate Record Examination and other criteria, our field attracts students stronger than theirs, and our courses are more mathematically demanding."
How Sociologists Made Themselves Irrelevant by Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson. Via Scatterplot.
Chronicle: ... In closing, I would like to suggest two "smell tests" for all sociologists, but especially those engaged with the public sphere, when assessing their work. The first is the Garfinkel rule, mentioned earlier: Never treat your subjects as cultural dopes. If you find yourself struggling to explain away your subjects’ own reasoned and widely held account of what they consider important in explaining their condition, you are up to something intellectually fishy.

The second is this: If you end up with findings that have policy implications that you would never dream of advocating for yourself or your loved ones, be wary of them. A case in point: If you find that neighborhoods have no effects, you should be prepared to do the rational thing and go live in an inner-city neighborhood with its much cheaper real estate, or at least advise your struggling son or daughter searching for an apartment to save by renting there. If the thought offends you, then something stinks.
More fun links: The Econ con and Economics: is it science?


Rastus Odinga-Odinga said...

"Economists: at least we aren't as stupid as sociologists." Print it on a T shirt and distribute liberally on your campus.

BobSykes said...

Economists are likely smarter than the poor schlubs who infest sociology, but may, like Krugman, are willing to lie to support some closely held ideology.

Dain Fitzgerald said...

The public and thus politicians are highly interested in economic questions (and answers), so big surprise they elevate economists. Yes sociology strictly speaking should encompass all that economics does and more, but we've come a long way since Weber's day...

Kennon Gilson said...

Another academic mystery that suggests lack of elementary field research--the disease of intellectuals.
Duh, US economists graduate into the only profession with a well-organized job placement system--because they're ECONOMISTS, people.

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