This article is devoted to Thomas Piketty’s latest book, Capital and Ideology (2019). We begin by placing the book within the argument developed by the author in his previous works, before pointing out a number of limitations. We first question Piketty’s way of thinking about capitalism, before coming to his theory of ideology. Finally, we will try to define the contours and limits of Piketty’s project of overcoming capitalism, ie. his vision of a just society, of a “participative socialism”, as it is presented in the last chapter of the book.
The ideological dimension of the work of economists has been made the object of studies which generally have sought to isolate the properly scientific contributions from the ideological aspects, which have generally been associated with value judgements. Yet not only should ideology not be identified with the latter, but it is out of the question to separate science from ideology since it is in so far as a science of social phenomena is well-established and is by virtue of this fact highly credible that it is likely to lend itself to an ideological function. This phenomenon is illustrated here through a consideration of a few contributions among the most outstanding which the economic analysis has produced.
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.
This paper surveys the debates that have taken place over the role of value judgments in economics, claiming that the analysis of different types of value judgment offers a way to explore the influence of ideology on economic theory. In this literature, the focus of attention has been on whether the methods of positive economics allow the economist’s political values to affect his or her conclusions. This paper turns instead to intellectual value judgments, the influence of which is more concealed. Some heterodox economists, notably Feminists, have addressed this issue but they have done so only to a limited extent. The paper explores the relationship of this literature to the transformation of the philosophy of science that followed Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions and concludes by arguing that the relationship between economists intellectual value judgments and ideology is a line of inquiry that has been insufficiently pursued.
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.
A conceptual system defines, at the exclusion of others, a point of view toward its object of enquiry. The conceptual systems of the human sciences relate to their objects of enquiry in two ways that invite them to play an ideological function as well as an epistemological one. First, a social-science conceptual system can alter the objects of its enquiry by becoming part of the conceptual and belief apparatus through which humans define themselves, perceive others and make choices, thereby changing the structures and propensities of the human world. Second, unlike the natural sciences, the human sciences are ultimately a means from on high of preserving or reconstructing the basic realities that they study, these in total being the human project. Different conceptual systems present different sets of choices, real or imagined, to be chosen and acted upon by human populations at large. It can never be the case that each of these sets of choices will equally favour every group in society. This means that, regardless of value judgments, it is the nature of all social theorizing, economics being no exception, to favour some groups in society over others, so that any attempt to block enquiry and analysis from multiple theoretical perspectives, i.e., anti-pluralism, is an ideological move.
There is a systematic and unquestioning tendency, observable in the social sciences, and especially of late in economics (Lawson 1997; Fullbrook 2004), toward considering formal models as superior, as somehow more scientific than other non-formal methods. There is a further resulting tendency for other social sciences to emulate economics’ methodological orientation. My concern here is manifold. First, to the extent that the alleged superiority of formalism results in an anti-pluralistic methodological orientation, intellectual progress is being thwarted. Second, in so far as the specific methodology is spreading across the social sciences, the phenomenon merits added attention. Third, questions of methodology, though central to good scientific inquiry, are too often relegated to “lofty” philosophers of science. I take the opportunity to reaffirm their relevance. I explore possible problems with formalism in the social sciences, particularly as formulated by the Critical Realist and/or Cambridge School. My hope is that social scientists may increasingly see that their plight is not isolated and discipline-specific, but is resolutely an increasing interdisciplinary phenomenon. Finally, I hope to encourage the social scientific community to (re-)engage in methodological reflexivity and to produce a united effort to protect intellectual freedom as a condition for scientific progress.
This article examines how Althusser’s structuralist approach transforms the Marxian concept of ideology. Marx distinguishes two functions: the description/distortion ideology and the legitimization/reproduction ideology. But his proposed articulation does not succeed because it keeps a phenomenological anthropology of the “living individual” in the background. By making the “subject” the product of the ideology through the mechanism of “interpellation,” Althusser suggests a deconstruction of the Marxian approach of the “constituent subject” and a general theory of the “constituted subject” as its substitute, which is more in keeping with the science of history which Marx inaugurated. It remains to be seen whether the “subject” exhausts all the dimensions of the “subjectivity,” that is to say, whether the “structuralist” approach can do without the “phenomenological” approach of Marx or not.
Far from being restricted to economic questions, neoliberalism is a global thought, a worldview, an ideology prone to sketching out schemes for the improvement of various aspects of social life and, last but not least, of politics. The writing of many neoliberals, among them a few leading figures, shows an enduring skepticism about democracy, with it being accused of stifling liberty and fostering socialism. This suspicious look at democracy is sometimes coupled with a reflection on possible alternatives and explains the interest expressed for some right-wing authoritarian regimes, the dictatorship of General Pinochet in Chile serving as a particular example here. The neoliberal reflection on democracy unveils a deep-rooted resentment of modern representative systems and the correlative quest for a form of legitimacy not based on the rule of majority but on the rule of a chosen few.
This article stems from the contradictions that may be observed between the current demand for sustainability and the current functioning of our financial system. Beginning with a discussion of the epistemological assumptions underlying financial theory, it seeks to reveal the ways in which it may be viewed as an Ideology supporting the financialization of economies and societies. In order to counterbalance this ideology, we use the Ricœurian notion of the cultural imaginary to develop a Utopia, which is referred to as Finance as a Common. The reflexivity enabled by this Utopia reveals the mental structures in which financial actors are embedded, while opening up possible pathways for the reconstruction of the financial system and the renewal of financial knowledge.