The Epistemological Break in Economics: What Does the Public Know About the Economy and What Do Economists Know About the Public?
24 Pages Posted: 31 Jul 2020
Date Written: July 4, 2020
Economics is characterized by an epistemological break: a discontinuity, between everyday and scientific understandings. An extensive empirical literature proves the so-called economic ignorance of the public. This has created a disdain for the public among economists and provided an argument for more influence of experts. We demonstrate that this empirical literature privileges scientific economic knowledge over other types of economics knowledge, and thus merely proves the existence of the epistemological break. In its place we argue for the simultaneous existence of different types of economic knowledge, held by economic actors (the public) and economists (the experts). Economics should seek convergence between these bodies of knowledge, through translation efforts. We demonstrate that Wicksteed and Ostrom have tried this and suggest further constructive steps following Boltanski’s work in sociology. We argue that economics without an epistemological break has the potential to improve economics education, and mutual understanding between economists and the public.
Keywords: Epistemological Break, Economic Ignorance, Economic Experts, Elinor Ostrom, Folk Economics
JEL Classification: A11, A13, A14, A23, B41, Z13
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