Generalization in the Economic Field (Brief Item #88)

[7/2/20) Generalization comes with Newton, who attacked the general theory of motion, laid down its pure theory, identified Kepler’s and Galileo’s laws by inventing the calculus, and so found himself in a position to account for any corporeal motion known.  Aristotle, Ptolemy, Copernicus, Galilei, and Kepler had all been busy with particular classes of moving bodies.  Newton dealt in the same way with all.  He did so by turning to a field of greater generality, the laws of motion, and by finding a deeper unity in the apparent disparateness of Kepler’s ellipse and Galilei’s time squared. … Similarly the non-Euclidean geometers moved geometry back to premises more remote than Euclid’s axioms; they developed methods of their own quite unlike Euclid’s.  Though they did not impugn Euclid’s theorems, neither were they very interested in them; casually and incidentally they turn them up as particular cases in an enlarged and radically different field.  Einstein went beyond Euclid and Newton to develop the field theories of Special relativity and General Relativity by employing the new geometries to make time an independent variable; and as Newton transformed the formulation and interpretation of Kepler’s laws, so Einstein transformed the Newtonian laws of motion. … Similarly, it is, , a scientific generalization of the old political economy and of modern economics that will yield the new political economy which we need. … Plainly the way out is through a more general field. [CWL 21, 6-7]

Paraphrasing [CWL 21, 6-7]: Lonergan moved macroeconomics back to premises more remote than Walrasian statics, microeconomic price theory, neoclassical macroeconomics and Keynesian macroeconomics; he developed explanatory formulae quite unlike others’, and though he did not impugn them, neither was he very interested in them; casually and incidentally combinations of prices and quantities turn up as particular coincidental cases in an enlarged and radically different field. … Lonergan discovered a new fieldtheory of macroeconomic dynamics to make aggregate, interdependent, mutually-defining, functionings the scientifically-significant variables; and as Newton transformed the formulation and interpretation of Kepler’s laws, and the non-Euclideans and Einstein transformed Newton’s laws, so Lonergan transformed the neoclassical and Keynesian laws of how the economy actually functions. … He achieved a scientific generalization of the old political economy and of modern economics that yields the new political economy which we need. … Plainly the way to settle disputes about the immanent intelligibility of the economic process is through a more general, explanatory, and sublating dynamics of implicitly-defined economic functionings.  The way out is through a more general field. [#88]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s