Economists do more than merely describe an external economic world. They shape it in the image of their theories and models. This idea, following the philosophy of language, puts forward that economic theories are performative, and not only descriptive.
This idea has become a powerful critique of the scientificity of economics since it removes the idea of an external world against which our description could be evaluated as truth. If any theory can become true, there are no true theories per se because there is no such thing as a pre-existing economy to describe. Is such a relativist stance a fatality? This is the question at stake in this book. Furthermore, the author asks if any theory is able to ‘perform’ the social reality, or are there actually some limits to performativity? For philosophers, a performative statement is a statement that cannot fail to mean something, but can fail to do what it calls for. The state of the world may or may not be changed; the performative statement may be happy or unhappy. In economic terms, this can be interpreted as: some theories change the world while some do not. This book argues that this possibility of failure, a perspective previously missing from discussions on the subject, should be at the heart of any definition of failure.
Taking on the question of why some theories change the world while others do not, this volume will be of interest to those studying advances courses on the philosophy of economics as well as those studying and researching in the areas of the philosophy of sciences and sociology of science and economics.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments. Introduction. Part I: The Performativist Approach. Introduction to Part I. Chapter 1 From language to device: How economics makes shapes the world. Chapter 2 The theory of performativity: a double remoteness. Chapter 3 Criticisms of the sociological approach to performativityConclusion to part I. Part II: A Conventionalist Approach to Performativity. Introduction to Part II. Chapter 4 Changing perspective: performativity, institutional fact and convention. Chapter 5 An ontological focus. Conclusion to part II. Part III: Three Scenes of Performativity. Introduction to Part III. Chapter 6 Performativity and empiricity: rationality and liberal paternalism. Chapter 7 Performativity and self-fulfillment: the case of the Black-Scholes-Merton equations. Chapter 8 A conventional limit to performativity: the example of organ trade. Conclusion to part III. General Conclusion. Bibliography. Index
Nicolas Brisset is an associate professor at the Université Côte d’Azur (GREDEG-CNRS), France, and an associate member of the Centre Walras-Pareto of the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. His areas of specialization are the philosophy of social sciences, history of economic thought and economic sociology. More precisely, his research focus on three issues: the interaction between economic theories and social reality; the history of economic thought under the Vichy regime; and the limits of commodification.
"All in all, the book is an important attempt to systematically reconsider the theoretical foundations of performativity and to think through the implications of the conventionalist approach. It fits nicely with some contemporary suggestions to enrich the perspective on performativity by merging it with broader macro-sociological and political economy concerns." -- Ivan Boldyrev, Journal of Economic Methodology