Deirdre McCloskey
While doing research for my dissertation I came across the work of Deirdre McCloskey (who is a completely fascinating person). Her work on rhetoric in economics is the first I’ve found that provides a methodological critique that doesn’t ignore the social context of the methods. Power, race, and gender all shape perceptions of validity and rhetorics of objectivity! I kept feeling like these critiques HAVE to go hand in hand, but it seemed like no one else seemed to think so. Check out this passage from The Rhetoric of Economics:
Economists are poets / But don't know it. Economists are storytellers without a clue. Economists are philosophers who don't study philosophy. Economists are scientists who don't know even now that their science has become a boy's game in a sandbox. Let's get serious, fellas. (The gals already know there's something wrong.)
Just change “Economists” to “Quantitative Social Scientists” ....
To be fair, others, like Nancy Cartwright (2007), have pointed out that how we hope to use causes determines the methods we adopt when “hunting” them, but she seems afraid of pointing out that “how we hope to use causes” is not just “policy recommendations” vs “prediction,” but how we use certain causes and methods to reinforce hierarchies of gender, race, power, status, and funding.
Sunday, December 8, 2013