A branch of the French social sciences has emerged in the 1980s, known as ‘the economics of conventions’. The term convention is introduced to subvert the utilitarianism of neo-classical economic theory. However, there is no consensual and stabilized definition of this notion. According to the investigation undertaken in this paper in order to clarify basic concepts, this term should be used for naming a research perspective. Researchers involved in ‘the economics of convention’ face two issues : the methodological issue raised by the interactions between institutions and action; the political issue raised by the assessment and the improvement of institutional measures. This article aims to show how the pragmatic philosophy of John Dewey allows for dealing with these issues.
Charges of ideological bias are hardly absent from economics, whether it be in the realm of theory, policy, history, or the history of ideas. Most of us are now sufficiently post-modern to understand that, try as we might, we cannot escape the influence of ideology on our thought processes; yet, acknowledgement of the role of ideology in economics generally is rare. Where such acknowledgement exists, it is always with reference to the work of those whose methods or results are opposed to one’s own. The role of ideology goes well beyond the choice of theoretical or empirical tools, the evaluation of the outcomes of empirical analysis, and the application of these to the policy process. It also influences the interpretation, understanding, reception, and transmission of ideas. Here we will explore two sets of interpretive themes that bear witness to the role played by ideology in the transmission of economic theories. The first deals with two positive theoretical constructs that have been interpreted and used as free-market or right-wing ideology: the Coase theorem, and the unanimity rule in constitutional political economy. The second reflects on the ideological content given to so-called pragmatic policy analysis via an examination of the work of W.S. Jevons, J.M. Clark, A.C. Pigou, and Ronald Coase.
Heterodox economists, along with many non-economists, have often leveled charges of ideological bias against mainstream economics and economists. This paper considers some of these charges, arguing that most heterodox arguments about the mainstream’s ideological bias are not persuasive. An argument can, however, be made that the mainstream is unintentionally ideologically biased because it supports the status quo without taking a position on whether there is an alternative position that is preferable. Ironically, the reason that mainstream economics can be considered ideologically biased is that it works so hard at avoiding considering ideological issues.
Pragmatism is currently one of the most active fields of communication between philosophers and economists. It inspires works in social justice, ethics and economic methodology. Pragmatism was never well received by French economists. The work of Henri Guitton in the 1950s is one of few French contributions to pragmatism in economics. The study of his work and of his antecedents brings to light the cultural and political causes of this cold reception.