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Reconstructing Economic Theory

The Problem of Human Agency Allen Oakley, former Associate Professor of Economics, The University of Newcastle, Australia
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.
Extent: 256 pp
Hardback Price: £96.00 Web: £86.40
Publication Date: 2002
ISBN: 978 1 84064 133 2
Availability: Out of Stock
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  • Economics and Finance
  • Methodology of Economics
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.
‘Oakley offers an effective critique of mainstream economic thought throughout this book. . . . Oakley’s topic is important and his approach is novel and promising.’
– Rachel Douchant, Markets & Morality
Contents: Preface 1. Introduction 2. Alfred Schutz: Individuals as Human Agents 3. Schutz and Socially Situated Agents 4. Karl Popper’s Ontology of Situated Human Agency 5. George Shackle and the Temporal Conditioning of Human Agency 6. Shackle’s Theory of Choice and Action Under Uncertainty 7. Shackle and the Situational Conditioning of Choice and Action 8. Herbert Simon and the Limits of Agent Rationality 9. Human Agency, Situational Analysis and the Reconstruction of Economic Theory Bibliography Index