The Dismal Mind - Economics as a Pretension to Science - Part I

Written by Sam Vaknin


"It is impossible to describe any human action if one does not refer torepparttar meaningrepparttar 132664 actor sees inrepparttar 132665 stimulus as well as inrepparttar 132666 end his response is aiming at." Ludwig von Mises

I. Introduction

Storytelling has been with us sincerepparttar 132667 days of campfire and besieging wild animals. It served a number of important functions: amelioration of fears, communication of vital information (regarding survival tactics andrepparttar 132668 characteristics of animals, for instance),repparttar 132669 satisfaction of a sense of order (predictability and justice),repparttar 132670 development ofrepparttar 132671 ability to hypothesize, predict and introduce theories and so on.

We are all endowed with a sense of wonder. The world around us in inexplicable, baffling in its diversity and myriad forms. We experience an urge to organize it, to "explainrepparttar 132672 wonder away", to order it so that we know what to expect next (predict). These arerepparttar 132673 essentials of survival. But while we have been successful at imposing our mind onrepparttar 132674 outside world we have been much less successful when we tried to explain and comprehend our internal universe and our behaviour.

Economics is not an exact science, nor can it ever be. This is because its "raw material" (humans and their behaviour as individuals and en masse) is not exact. It will never yield natural laws or universal constants (like physics). Rather, it is a branch ofrepparttar 132675 psychology of masses. It deals withrepparttar 132676 decisions humans make. Richard Thaler,repparttar 132677 prominent economist, argues that a model of human cognition should lie atrepparttar 132678 heart of every economic theory. In other words he regards economics to be an extension of psychology.

II. Philosophical Considerations - The Issue of Mind (Psychology)

The relationships betweenrepparttar 132679 structure and functioning of our (ephemeral) mind,repparttar 132680 structure and modes of operation of our (physical) bodies andrepparttar 132681 structure and conduct of social collectives have beenrepparttar 132682 matter of heated debate for millennia.

There are those who, for all practical purposes, identifyrepparttar 132683 mind with its product (mass behaviour). Some of them postulaterepparttar 132684 existence of a lattice of preconceived, born, categorical knowledge aboutrepparttar 132685 universe repparttar 132686 vessels into which we pour our experience and which mould it. Others have regardedrepparttar 132687 mind as a black box. While it is possible in principle to know its input and output, it is impossible, again in principle, to understand its internal functioning and management of information.

The other camp is more "scientific" and "positivist". It speculated thatrepparttar 132688 mind (whether a physical entity, an epiphenomenon, a non-physical principle of organization, orrepparttar 132689 result of introspection) has a structure and a limited set of functions. They argue that a "user's manual" can be composed, replete with engineering and maintenance instructions. The most prominent of these "psychodynamists" was, of course, Freud. Though his disciples (Jung, Adler, Horney,repparttar 132690 object-relations lot) diverged wildly from his initial theories they all shared his belief inrepparttar 132691 need to "scientify" and objectify psychology. Freud a medical doctor by profession (Neurologist) and Bleuler before him came with a theory regardingrepparttar 132692 structure ofrepparttar 132693 mind and its mechanics: (suppressed) energies and (reactive) forces. Flow charts were provided together with a method of analysis, a mathematical physics ofrepparttar 132694 mind.

Forward to the Past - Feudalism and Communism

Written by Sam Vaknin


The core countries of Central Europe (the Czech Republic, Hungary and, to a lesser extent, Poland) experienced industrial capitalism inrepparttar inter-war period. Butrepparttar 132663 countries comprisingrepparttar 132664 vast expanses ofrepparttar 132665 New Independent States, Russia andrepparttar 132666 Balkan had no real acquaintance with it. To them its zealous introduction is nothing but another ideological experiment and not a very rewarding one at that.

It is often said that there is no precedent torepparttar 132667 extant fortean transition from totalitarian communism to liberal capitalism. This might well be true. Yet, nascent capitalism is not without historical example. The study ofrepparttar 132668 birth of capitalism in feudal Europe may yet lead to some surprising and potentially useful insights.

The Barbarian conquest ofrepparttar 132669 teetering Roman Empire (410-476 AD) heralded five centuries of existential insecurity and mayhem. Feudalism wasrepparttar 132670 countryside's reaction to this damnation. It was a Hobson's choice and an explicit trade-off. Local lords defended their vassals against nomad intrusions in return for perpetual service bordering on slavery. A small percentage ofrepparttar 132671 population lived on trade behindrepparttar 132672 massive walls of Medieval cities.

In most parts of central, eastern and southeastern Europe, feudalism endured well intorepparttar 132673 twentieth century. It was entrenched inrepparttar 132674 legal systems ofrepparttar 132675 Ottoman Empire and of Czarist Russia. Elements of feudalism survived inrepparttar 132676 mellifluous and prolix prose ofrepparttar 132677 Habsburg codices and patents. Most ofrepparttar 132678 denizens of these moribund swathes of Europe were farmers - onlyrepparttar 132679 profligate and parasitic members of a distinct minority inhabitedrepparttar 132680 cities. The present brobdignagian agricultural sectors in countries as diverse as Poland and Macedonia attest to this continuity of feudal practices.

Both manual labour and trade were derided inrepparttar 132681 Ancient World. This derision was partially eroded duringrepparttar 132682 Dark Ages. It survived only in relation to trade and other "non-productive" financial activities and even that not pastrepparttar 132683 thirteenth century. Max Weber, in his opus, "The City" (New York, MacMillan, 1958) described this mental shift of paradigm thus: "The medieval citizen was onrepparttar 132684 way towards becoming an economic man ...repparttar 132685 ancient citizen was a political man".

What communism did torepparttar 132686 lands it permeated was to freeze this early feudal frame of mind of disdain towards "non-productive", "city-based" vocations. Agricultural and industrial occupations were romantically extolled. The cities were berated as hubs of moral turpitude, decadence and greed. Political awareness was made a precondition for personal survival and advancement. The clock was turned back. Weber's "Homo Economicus" yielded to communism's supercilious version ofrepparttar 132687 ancient Greeks' "Zoon Politikon". John of Salisbury might as well have been writing for a communist agitprop department when he penned this in "Policraticus" (1159 AD): "...if (rich people, people with private property) have been stuffed through excessive greed and if they hold in their contents too obstinately, (they) give rise to countless and incurable illnesses and, through their vices, can bring aboutrepparttar 132688 ruin ofrepparttar 132689 body as a whole". The body inrepparttar 132690 text beingrepparttar 132691 body politic.

This inimical attitude should have come as no surprise to students of either urban realities or of communism, their parricidal off-spring. The city liberated its citizens fromrepparttar 132692 bondage ofrepparttar 132693 feudal labour contract. And it acted asrepparttar 132694 supreme guarantor ofrepparttar 132695 rights of private property. It relied on its trading and economic prowess to obtain and secure political autonomy. John of Paris, arguably one ofrepparttar 132696 first capitalist cities (at least according to Braudel), wrote: "(The individual) had a right to property which was not with impunity to be interfered with by superior authority - because it was acquired by (his) own efforts" (in Georges Duby, "The age ofrepparttar 132697 Cathedrals: Art and Society, 980-1420, Chicago, Chicago University Press, 1981). Despiterepparttar 132698 fact that communism was an urban phenomenon (albeit with rustic roots) - it abnegated these "bourgeoisie" values. Communal ownership replaced individual property and servitude torepparttar 132699 state replaced individualism. In communism, feudalism was restored. Even geographical mobility was severely curtailed, as wasrepparttar 132700 case in feudalism. The doctrine ofrepparttar 132701 Communist party monopolized all modes of thought and perception - very much asrepparttar 132702 church-condoned religious strain did 700 years before. Communism was characterized by tensions between party, state andrepparttar 132703 economy - exactly asrepparttar 132704 medieval polity was plagued by conflicts between church, king and merchants-bankers. Paradoxically, communism was a faithful re-enactment of pre-capitalist history.

Cont'd on page 2 ==>
 
ImproveHomeLife.com © 2005
Terms of Use