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Ideographic use of economic terms

Rojhat Berdan Avsar (Assistant Professor, Department of Humanities, History and Social Sciences, Columbia College Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA)

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 7 September 2015




The purpose of this paper is to challenge the claim that economics is of neutral value and unveil common value judgments underlying the standard policy positions in economics. These value judgments are communicated through the economic lexicon.


The author uses discourse analysis and focuses on certain authoritative economic terms, most of which are metaphors, functioning like arguments. The author calls such terms as “deadweight loss” ideographs in the sense McGee (1980) used the term.


Economic language is not neutral. Certain terms that are treated as common sense mask the normative commitments to which economists often are subscribed, consciously or not.


The author treats economics as a particular welfare ideology whose normative commitments are communicated by its vocabulary. The critical approach used here is not common in economics. The author argues that implicit biases built in the discipline are reinforced by the particular economic-language awareness, which is vital to maintaining economics as a pluralist discipline.



Avsar, R.B. (2015), "Ideographic use of economic terms", On the Horizon, Vol. 23 No. 3, pp. 169-173.



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