Fifteen years after the Global Financial Crisis: Recessions and Business Cycles in the History of Economic Thought

Cohousing in the suburbs: On economics’ interfield connections

Cedrini Mario Aldo, Università di Torino
Ambrosino Angela, Università di Torino
Davis John B., Marquette University and University of Amsterdam
Erasmo Valentina, Università di Torino

Economics cannot be defined in a purely internal manner, but by relying upon what makes it different from other disciplines in scope and nature. Still, boundaries are conceptual, and at best ambiguous, unless one conceives them as what lies at the discipline’s “periphery”. With respect to the epoch of economics imperialism, however, the periphery has blurred as boundary, and flourished as zone. The definition depends therefore upon the role that the increasing variety of mainstream research programs significantly deviating from the core neoclassical approach, and having their origins outside economics, play in shaping its current structure. Since the advent of reverse imperialisms, economics has embarked on a series of cross-disciplinary adventures (implying borrowing resources from another discipline to serve the aims of a project in economics) that can have or not a transformative impact upon the discipline, and in some cases lead to the construction of a new hybrid, in cooperation with the lending discipline. The establishment of an interdisciplinary project, albeit with limited if any impact on the original disciplines, seems to occur if “essential tension researchers” and even heterodox economists can contribute with mainstream practitioners to the hybrid field. Interfield projects may however result from more daring initiatives – when economics establishes an offshore company, like structured investment vehicles, which can be kept off the balance-sheet of the bank which created them. Freedom to escape regulations is the prerequisite for launching a transdisciplinary project which may even come to supplant the original disciplinary approaches it aims at synthetizing. The likelihood that economics’ cross-disciplinary adventures will originate interfield projects with related transdisciplinary perspectives may have to do with the open/closed system logics. Deriving from the necessity to recover in the external environment (of social sciences) those factors that are required to “close” a disciplinary system (economics), interfield projects that do not have any transformative impact upon contributing disciplines correspond to operational closures (around theories, principles, and material objects) similar to those around which sciences are organized. The paper underlines that “openness” of interfield projects appears to be favoured by the availability of (big) data and powerful techniques for analysing them, that seemingly render theoretical work in economics obsolete, and convey an image of economics as virtually entirely of an applied nature. If economics is becoming applied, this may favour a turn toward transdisciplinarity, provided “open” interfield projects are allowed to flourish. The paper thus speculates about the legacy that the continuous development of open interfield projects under the impact of both specialization and economics’ cross-disciplinary adventures might have for pluralism within the discipline.

Area: Eshet Conference

Keywords: Economics as discipline; mainstream pluralism; interfield projects; open-system logic; economics imperialism and reverse imperialisms

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