Mapping out weak theory, navigating strong transformation (Part 2)

In our last blog post (which was the first in this series to explore the meaning of a ‘post-capitalist politics’ and a ‘weak theory’ approach) we briefly outlined the target of a weak theory approach: positivist economics. This post will explain what we see to be the major flaw in the positivist turn: the ‘naturalization’ of philosophical assumptions. Naturalization here means that the particular beliefs (or philosophical assumptions) that form the basis of a theory are said not to be particular beliefs at all, but to be universal laws. In other words, as positivists naturalize their assumptions, they claim to be able to explain the ‘true nature’ of how humans behave economically. In our understanding, this naturalization turns positivist economics from a social science into a political project. In order to make this more clear, we will use the analogy of a map and map projections to illustrate the problems with this approach of ‘universalizing’ and ‘naturalizing’ a particular set of beliefs. We will conclude by arguing that theories can get a more accurate picture of reality by drawing on a diverse variety of ‘map projections’.

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