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Saturday, 21 January 2012

Its raining cats and blogs

In terms of zeitgeist, a common speculation I hear is "when's it going to happen?" , with "it' being:

a. Civil unrest on a massive scale
b. or, huge stock market crash and we wake up one morning and the ATM's arent working (triggering 'a')

A symptom, perhaps, of this is the proliferation of blogs by traders, anonymous bankers and other market/economist types. There are billions of these things (hence the rather weak pun in the title above) and if you havent stumbled across a few by now then you probably live far too much of a productive life. If you do spend most of your life actually doing stuff, as opposed to surfing the net, just do a quick dip into the life of an inveterate, newly converted couch potato like myself. Simply open Google , click the tab for 'more', click blogs and enter 'market' or 'wall street' etc.

The results of this experiment will be in two 'trajectories' (as us social scientists say when we cant be bothered thinking of the right word (CBBTORW)).

{ Incidentally, other social science words we use when in a state of CBBTORW, are 'towards' ( a personal favourite because I hate its use with a particularly intense hatred. I dont see the value in publishing a academic paper that start with "Towards a theory of ....." because you should have actually gotten to the theory before you write about it. Beside which , most of the time the author usually doesnt mean 'theory' they mean 'model'), 'paradigm' (when you cant think of anything to say, you either suggest a potential new paradigm or critique an existing one), 'heuristic' (just because you inappropriattely apply a posh name to your guess doesnt mean its not still just guessing), ontological (I would place a very large bet that 98% of the people that use this word could'nt explain what it means). The consequence of this misuse of language in academic papers (as opposed to the forgivable misuse, typos and convulted syntax of casual blog writing) is that sometimes I think that the social sciences - horrible word but you hopefully know what I mean - are the study of incredibly fascinating behaviours and interactions, done very badly.

A lot of this can be understood, heuristically, within the paradigm of "physics envy", thus we can move towards an ontological theory of interdisciplinary relativism where reductionist duality is priveliged........................ Erm, Sorry about that, I just got a bit carried away. Anyway a prof I recently met was talking about 'physics envy' in his discipline, and it really struck a chord. In fact, in the social sciences, an incredible amount of time and energy has been expended in the last thirty years in what one paper described as "The Paradigm Wars: Qualitative versus Quantitative". In many commentaries, you could replace the phrase 'essential criticality' for 'a dislike of scientists, possibly based on a failed romance'. Its obvious, I hope, that a critical look at our own and othr discplines is necessary and welcome. But whining on for twenty years about science without proposing anything that would, in practice, look any different, is not critical thinking (and yes I'm talking about you Mr Schon). Fortunately, there are many, many, many great examples work in the social sciences by fantastic people who are secure enough not to 'wish they were taken more seriously like what physicist are' and who are too busy doing their own research to spend too much time worrying about whether the CERN experiments are more valid than their own interviews with anti-social youth. }

Having extended the use of brackets beyond all reasonable doubt, I should perhaps return to the main, which is the flourishing state of blogs about economics, or the markets. As an expert couch potato, having had two periods of enforced layoff in the last year and therefore too much time on my hands, I can confirm that in fact, economics blogs have become more numerous that 'alin abduction' or "Mayan calender' blogs. And i think its because so many people are expecting something disastrous to occur in the economic sphere, but they just dont know what this disastrous something might be. So they turn to blogs for the answer, because newspaper's arent telling. Which is entirely the wrong thing to do. As should be obvious by now, economists know about as much about the future of the economy as Peppa Pig does about phrenology. Economics as prediction is junk science predicated on a bed of fantasy, with a side of unreality and an extra helping of make-believe. Economics, like the social sciences, suffered from physics envy and desperately wanted to be a 'science', when it clearly was not. The real results of that self-delusion, and that intense self-focus on how their discipline was regarded, is directly implicated in the destruction of at least three national economies. That's a pretty high price for a country to pay for academic pretension.

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