Samir Amin: "Pure economics is a parascience"

Roland Chrisjohn, Ph. D. rchrisjo at
Wed Jun 28 07:01:33 MDT 2000

At 06:51 PM 6/27/00 -0400, you wrote:
>(Final chapter of "Spectres of Capitalism")
>Pure Economics, or the Contemporary World's Witchcraft

Once again Lou demonstrates why this is such a productive list to be
subscribed to.  I have only one issue with the abstract cited, and that is
that Amin offers parapsychology as the parascience of psychology.  I assume
he only does this because he hasn't delved very far into
psychology.  Psychology is in its foundation the same expression of
methodological individualism that economics is, and is thus just a
different form of parapsychology (say, like Catholicism is a respectable
form of cult thinking).  In fact, it was my intense dissatisfaction with
the explanatory and methodological pretensions of psychology that led me,
by various routes, back to Marx.  All the issues Amin identifies with
parascience in economics are present in psychology as well, and even some
of the same names pop up.  My copy of William Ryan's "Equality," a
full-frontal attack on methodological individualism in education, has a
publisher's blurb touting it as "A necessary balance... for Milton and Rose
Friedman's 'Free to Choose.'"

Where the parascience of economics wants to "found" the picture of its
enterprises on the rational choice of individuals, psychology wants to
found the behavior of individuals (rational choices among them) on the
inner contents of each individual (genes, memories, "reinforcement
histories," traits, egos, and so on).  The earth is no firmer there, and
for the same reasons.

For those interested in having a look at psychology's foundation of sand, I
suggest Richard Miller ("Methodological Individualism and Social
Explanation," Philosophy of Science, 48, 1978, 387 - 414), Rajeev Bhargava
("Individualism in Social Science," Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1992), and
Robert Wilson ("Cartesian Psychology and Physical Minds: Individualism and
the Sciences of the Mind," Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1995),
and, of course, Ryan.  The centrality of this for marxist thought is
covered in Lou's own "Analytical Marxism vs Historical Materialism"
grouping on his web page (thank you Lou!), Marcus Roberts' "Analytical
Marxism" (Verso, 1996), and Julius Sensat ("Methodological Individualism
and Marxism," Economics and Philosophy, 4, 1988, 189-219.

Religion used to be the opiate of the people, but nowadays it's psychology.

Roland Chrisjohn

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