Bourgeois Knowledge: The Incomplete Closure Of the Epistemological Break In the Work of Deirdre McCloskey
Forthcoming in Schmoller's Jahrbuch
19 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2021
Date Written: November 19, 2020
One of the defining features of much of modern social science and economics, in particular, is the hard break it posits between everyday and scientific knowledge. French philosophers have called this feature the epistemological break. One of the key consequences of this feature is that scientists have access to superior knowledge and are in a position to inform and steer the behavior of individuals. We believe that a large epistemological break is incompatible with science in a liberal democratic society. In this paper, we analyze the extent to which the writings of Deirdre McCloskey contributed to bridging the epistemological break given that her early work, and the work of some members of the younger Chicago School of economics more generally, was strongly influenced by the epistemological break. In the first decade after The Rhetoric of Economics McCloskey did much to strip scientific knowledge of its special elevated status. In her later work on the bourgeoisie, there is also a renewed appreciation for everyday knowledge of economic actors. Yet, important tensions remain, the appreciation for bourgeois knowledge has not been generalized to an appreciation for all everyday economic knowledge. And the tension between the economist as a teacher, and the economist as a student of society, already present in the Chicago tradition is still visible.
Keywords: Epistemological Break, Deirdre McCloskey, Expert Knowledge, Everyday Knowledge, Bourgeoisie
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation