Reconstructing Economic Theory: The Problem of Human Agency

This book applies a critical focus on the extent to which methodological practices in mainstream economic theory impede our understanding of substantive economic phenomena as the products of human action. Economists, in general, work with a concept and representation of the human agent that is palpably unrealistic. Most do so, not out of ignorance, but rather to maintain the pretence that economics is the only true science among the social sciences because it enforces the use of rigorous and formalist methods of argument. Allen Oakley's inquiry pursues ideas of social ontology pertinent to reconstructing economic theory in a way that addresses this lack of realism. These ideas take the form of a revised metatheory for a humanistic economics in which priority is given to properly understanding and depicting the human origins of economic phenomena, rather than to meeting the imposed demands of scientistic rigour. Indeed, he demonstrates that many ontological ideas pertinent to such a reconstruction are extant in the literature of social philosophy and theory, a literature largely neglected by economic theorists. Economists and social scientists concerned about the nature and problems of mainstream economic theory will gain a great deal from reading this challenging book.