How pure is economics?

Where do you think is the place of economists on this scale?

http://xkcd.com/435/

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “How pure is economics?

  1. This comics came into my mind when we were discussing economic imperialism and the fact that economists sometimes tend to look down on other disciplines. It seems that this tendency is also present in other sciences 🙂

  2. On this scale of reductionism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reductionism) one might get economists between psychologists and biologists?

    • Yes, but maybe it would be also possible to place them slightly more to the right, between biologists and chemists. For example, there are many applications of game theory in the study of behavior of animals 🙂

  3. Alix

    Nice comic, I love the mathematician who realises everyone is standing over there.

    I think that putting economists between psychologists and biologists is quite an ‘economic imperialistic’ view- economics as the last science before the natural sciences.

    And between biologists and chemists even more.. I don’t think it is a very plausible proposal. Though if I had to defend it, I would look less at game theory and more at evolution/survival of fittest = competition for scarce resources kind of way. Not just with animals but also with plants, e.g. one of the mechanisms that pathogens use to attack plants is to somehow make the plant it is attacking grow very fast- this way the plant uses its (limited) energy to grow rather than to defend itself.

    Humoristic reductionism aside, the way academics sometimes guard their fields seems a little childish, and counter-productive too. In this week’s reading for example (http://www.jstor.org/pss/3080526), and in a simplified manner, the critiques on Titmuss’ ‘The Gift Relationship’ from sociologists were that it was not sociological enough, while the anthropologists didn’t want anyone to mistake it for anthropology. This isn’t very constructive criticism, rather than add an anthropological or sociological vision to the discussion.

    It makes me think of organisations that were once set up for a purpose but which are now obsolete or in need of reform to meet a new situation, whose leaders cling onto for many other reasons than addressing the organisation’s purpose. The purpose of academia is to advance knowledge, not to defend academic borders (though I understand these are useful for practical purposes). Turf wars amongst groups that actually share a common vision are so often a waste of precious resources- not efficient at all!

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