Friday, July 1, 2011

...glimmers of a paradigm shift

By kay.e.strong

…networks and economics…in the same breathe no less! Surely, we are on the cusp of a paradigm shift in the Thomas Kuhn’s sense of the word (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 1962)!

A paradigm flip, according to Kuhn, occurs when a field accumulates a sufficient number of significant anomalies that can not be explained by the generally accepted line of truth. The dominant worldview of economics, like VHS (a second best to Betamax) in the 1970s, locked in during the Renaissance and has fended off competitors for thought shares for nearly half a millennium. But, in the real world, Renaissance economics is going down!

The evidence piling up against the Renaissance rooted worldview of the economy has passed the flex point on an exponentially-driven curve of real world experience. News headlines daily collide with the view of an economy in a self-perpetuating equilibrium, inhabited by homogenous agents suckled on rationality in which linear adding up of individual behavior yields macro behavior. Faith in the explanatory ability of economics has tanked.

So, what’s on the other side of this paradigm shift? I see faint glimmers…of an economy embedded in the deep ecology of life that integrates 21st century systems dynamics, where relationships not parts count, agents organize and interact in fluid networks learning, adapting and innovating and equilibrium as we have known it, is momentary. That’s what I’m seeing…hope of renewal.

Kay Strong, Ph.D., Southern Illinois University, M.T., University of Houston, M.A., Ohio University; Associate Professor at Baldwin-Wallace College; Areas of expertise: international economics, contemporary social-economic issues, complexity and futures-based perspectives in economics. E-mail:

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This blog lives under the auspices of the Department of Economics whose mission has been to hold high the lantern beaming an "economic way of thinking" onto the world. Selfishness, rationality and equilibrium have been central to the teaching of an economic way of thinking rooted in the Renaissance. And, in this regard, the department has faithfully stayed the course. The intent of this blog, thinking out loud..., however, is to entertain exchanges which may challenge the centrality of economics as we teach it.