In Praise of Joan Robinson: Economics as Social Control

  • Warren J. Samuels


Economics is commonly understood to comprise efforts to describe, interpret, understand (in the sense of verstehen), and to explain the economy, its structures and processes of choice, and its regulative mechanism(s): in short, to constitute an attempt at positive, if not also normative, knowledge. This is the view held by most economists and historians of economic thought. George Shackle is the best known advocate of the existence of a second function performed by economics, namely, the provision of psychic balm. As Shackle understands the matter, in The Years of High Theory:

All we can seek is consistency, coherence, order. The question for the scientist is what thought-scheme will best provide him with a sense of that order and coherence, a sense of some permanence, repetitiveness and universality in the structure or texture of the scheme of things, a sense even of that one-ness and simplicity which, if he can assure himself of its presence, will carry consistency and order to their highest expression. Religion, science and art have all of them this aim in common. The difference between them lies in the different emphases in their modes of search.


Social Control Full Employment Moral Problem Neoclassical Economic Economic Thought 
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Copyright information

© Warren J. Samuels 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Warren J. Samuels
    • 1
  1. 1.Michigan State UniversityUSA

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