Table of contents(15 chapters)
Part I Including a Symposium on Mary Morgan: Curiosity, Imagination, and Surprise
This introduction to the Symposium “Curiosity, Imagination, and Surprise” discusses some of the characteristics of Mary Morgan’s approach to study science, which she labels as “naturalized philosophy of science.” One of these characteristics is the usage of a carefully chosen vocabulary. These concepts are usually unconventional and open-ended with the aim of illuminating the practice under study. Another characteristic of her approach is that it is curiosity-driven, which becomes clear by the kind of typical questions she asks. A third characteristic is that her approach is case-study based, with its typical features, such as the investigation of a bounded “real-life” whole, its attitude of open-endedness, the usage of multiple research methods and its complex, often-narrated outcome.
In this chapter, we address the question of what health economic models represent. Are they realistic? And, does model realism matter? Or, is model usefulness in terms of informing pricing, reimbursement, and prescribing decisions all policymakers care about? The usefulness of models is circumscribed given that: (1) market failure is inherent in healthcare and (2) models oversimplify the preference structure underlying choices. We suggest, however, that models which employ the ceteris paribus clause can be useful in order to isolate factors that play a role in healthcare decision-making and ultimately characterize agents’ multiattribute utility functions through discrete choice experiments. As a result, policymakers gain important knowledge about decision criteria in the healthcare system.
In this chapter, I take a talk show in which Coen Teulings, then Director of the official Dutch Bureau for Economic Forecasting and Policy Analysis (CPB) was interviewed about its economic forecasts in the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008 as point of entry into an examination into how personal experience and judgment enter, and are essential for, the production and presentation of economic forecasts. During the interview it transpired that CPB did not rely on its macroeconomic models, but on personal experience encapsulated in “hand-made” monitors, to observe the unfolding crisis; monitors that were, in Teulings’ words, used to “feel the pulse” of the Dutch economy. I will take this metaphor as a cue to present several historical episodes in which models, numbers, and a certain feel for economic phenomena aimed to make CPB economists’ research more precise. These episodes are linked with a story about vain attempts by CPB director Teulings to drive out the personal from economic forecasting. The crisis forced him to recognize that personal experience was more important in increasing the precision of economic forecasts than theoretical deepening. The crisis thus both challenged the belief in the supremacy of theory driven, computer-based forecasting, and helped foster the view that precision is inevitably linked to judgment, experience and observation, and not seated in increased attention to high theory; scientifically sound knowledge proved less useful than the technically unqualified experiential knowledge of quacks.
During the interwar period, the Netherlands experienced a phase of rapid industrialization and mechanization and saw the introduction of many new labor-saving techniques on the shop floor. This process, which went under the name “rationalization of production,” caused great concern in the labor movement and sparked an intensive debate over the existence and extent of technological (or permanent) unemployment. Although the problem of technological unemployment was denied by the mainstream economists of the day, the problem was addressed by left-wing, mathematically trained economists such as Theo van der Waerden and Jan Tinbergen. They sought for rigorous “scientific” arguments that would convince policymakers, colleagues, and the public of socialist employment policies.
This chapter shows that van der Waerden and Tinbergen used ever-increasing formal methods to face the issue of rationalization, which became politically relevant and controversial in the specific context of the interwar period. Their new scientific tools gave them esteem and influence. In their role as advisers to the government, they gained influence and were able to recommend policies that were in accordance with their political beliefs.
The model-based enquiry depends on the form in which models are formulated and represented. When economists select a model as an efficient reasoning tool, they may first consider the type of model whose inherited epistemic virtue and reasoning rules best fits their needs. This chapter studies the dependence between the different forms of models and scientific knowledge by considering a particular form of model, that is, the diagram. This chapter draws from the history of location theory, which provides us with an example of how economists reasoned with diagrams, how their particular geometric shapes became an idealized landscape, and how they reasoned into them to account for actual spatial patterns of economic activity providing the opportunity for policy advice. Three different diagrams are examined: Johann Heinrich von Thünen’s concentric rings of agricultural land use, Alfred Weber’s triangles of industrial locations, and Walter Christaller’s hexagons of market area.
In my years as a student of Mary Morgan and later as her junior peer, I observed that one concept prompted her to react with caution and skepticism. That common notion was “influence.” In this chapter, I follow her cues to ask what are the legitimate grounds for claims of influence in historical explanation. Morgan’s writings have made us aware that the story of social science cannot be captured in simple reckonings of influence, and that long chains of actions are required to seat an idea in the mind, and longer still to set it to paper. My contribution to problematizing influence is to list the pitfalls of its uncritical use but also, once suitably redefined, its potential contribution to analysis. To illustrate my claims, I propose a test case, to study the “influence of Mary Morgan.”
The chapter reconstructs the methodological trajectory of Polly Hill. Crossing the boundaries between economics and anthropology, Hill’s work was simultaneously an epistemic challenge to development economics, and a testimony to the complexity and richness of economic life in what she called the “rural tropical world.” Drawing inspiration from the process that Mary Morgan referred to as “seeking parts, looking for wholes,” the chapter explores the evolving relationship between observational practice and conceptual categories in Hill’s work on West Africa and India. It is argued that fieldwork, the central element in Hill’s methodological reflection, served two main functions. Firstly, it acted as the cornerstone of her views on observation and induction, framing her understanding of the relationship between “parts” and “wholes.” Secondly, Hill used fieldwork as a narrative trope to articulate her hopeful vision for an integration of economics and anthropology, and later express her feelings of distance and alienation from the ways in which these disciplines were actually practiced.
This chapter argues that the process of imagination is molded by the intersecting notions of space, time, and measurements. It shows that economic spaces are shaped by notions of particular space-time held by historical actors and by imaginations of their past and future fictional spaces. The case study of colonial period South Asia examines how financial accounting and other measurements were co-opted to give form to future “fictional” expectations. South Asian economic spaces are shown to be the locus for control and dominance of future economic relationships, which were visualized in particular ways by the colonial rulers.
A conclusion reached is that economic spaces are not just enclosed spaces within borders where economic activity occurs shaped by the dominant culture and economy of a state. The economic spaces in colonial India were sites of economic conflict and violence, where contesting notions of economic time collided, and where widely contrasting economic futures were imagined. Indian nationalists looked into the past to spur their imagination of a different future for India. In fact, the conflict or violence that was part of the recasting of India’s national economic space was not entirely between racial groups (European colonists and native Indians) or strictly between economic classes (bourgeoisie upper castes and proletariat lower castes). Contrary expectations amongst the nationalists themselves are apparent. The process of imagination reveals the ensemble of cultural, social, and technical practices that actors used to give form to fictional expectations of the future and the spatialisation of economic spaces.
A heated debate surrounds the significance of reproducibility as an indicator for research quality and reliability, with many commentators linking a “crisis of reproducibility” to the rise of fraudulent, careless, and unreliable practices of knowledge production. Through the analysis of discourse and practices across research fields, I point out that reproducibility is not only interpreted in different ways, but also serves a variety of epistemic functions depending on the research at hand. Given such variation, I argue that the uncritical pursuit of reproducibility as an overarching epistemic value is misleading and potentially damaging to scientific advancement. Requirements for reproducibility, however they are interpreted, are one of many available means to secure reliable research outcomes. Furthermore, there are cases where the focus on enhancing reproducibility turns out not to foster high-quality research. Scientific communities and Open Science advocates should learn from inferential reasoning from irreproducible data, and promote incentives for all researchers to explicitly and publicly discuss (1) their methodological commitments, (2) the ways in which they learn from mistakes and problems in everyday practice, and (3) the strategies they use to choose which research components of any project need to be preserved in the long term, and how.
Seeking to build an objective scientific approach to psychiatry, American psychiatrists, physiologists, and psychologists began to turn to the conditional reflex method of Ivan Pavlov from the late 1920s. The generation of “neurotic” animals in the laboratory was critical to the emergence of a new experimental psychiatry in the United States. To understand the development of this field of research, the chapter will draw first on Mary Morgan’s identification of the mediatory and intermediary role of models and their ability to surprise and generate new questions, and second, upon her recent work on narratives in science. It will argue that it was through discursive and descriptive techniques that traced over time the tangled and interconnected lives of experimental subjects, that such elements of unpredictability in the animal laboratory were transformed into tools of research and put to disciplinary uses, promoting the clinical relevance of this new objective approach to psychiatric medicine.
Economics laboratories have become the primary locations of experimental economics research by the 1990s. They were a result of a decade long development from ad hoc opportune places to dedicated, purpose designed spaces. The distinctive feature of the economics laboratory and its key instrument became networked computers running custom-built software. However, the history of the economics laboratory is not just a history of evolving technology. I argue in this article that it is mainly a history of learning how to build an experimental economics community. Only a functioning community was able to change a physical place to a laboratory space. The distinction between place and space originates in the work of Michael de Certeau and I use it to analyze the evolution of economics laboratories. To this end, I analyze the case of Austin Hoggatt’s Management Science Laboratory at Berkeley in the 1960s as it illustrates the indispensability of creating a community centered on the laboratory. In contrast, the laboratories in Arizona and at Caltech since the 1980s, and in Amsterdam since the 1990s have become successful spaces, because, unlike Hoggatt, they focused equally on community building as on infrastructure and technology. This gave rise to social infrastructure and division of labor in the laboratory space.
Reflections on this special issue draw three themes out of the papers: the problem of fashioning the tools of science; the variability of life that poses challenges to scientific investigation; and the importance of space in myriad different ways to how we think about life. Although these themes may appear disconnected, they are in fact finely woven in various ways into the volume’s discussions, which range over science studies (broadly conceived) as well as economic history.
Part II Essay
At the turn of the twentieth century, various Socialist parties vied for a place in the American political system, making alliances where possible and convenient with elements of organized labor. Robert Franklin Hoxie, an economist at the University of Chicago whose principle contributions lay in his writings on the labor movement, wrote a series of essays in which he scrutinized the activities of the Socialist Party of America as it appeared to be at the time poised to become a viable force in American politics. This essay examines Hoxie’s writings on the conventions of the Socialist Party within the context of the political dynamic of the period and reveals his interpretations of events based on contemporary accounts and first-hand observations.
- Publication date
- Book series
- Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology
- Series copyright holder
- Emerald Publishing Limited
- Book series ISSN