Comment on Kaye-Blake
We are writing to comment on “Economics is a Structured Like a Language” (William Kaye-Blake, post-autistic economics review, issue no. 36, 24 February 2006, pp. 25-33) http://www.paecon.net/PAEReview/issue36/KayeBlake36.htm.
Kaye-Blake argues that Lawson’s critical realism and Ruccio’s postmodern ontologies are closed, though they claim to be open. Their appearance of openness is dismissed as complexity: “There is a problem with both of these formulations of openness. They reflect complexity: multiple forces acting either on the surface of society or surging up from its depths; they are still deterministic.” In order to offer indeterminacy, Kaye-Blake presents an ontological formulation stylized by the linguistic ideas of Saussure.
According to Saussure, meaning influences meaning. Aside from this influence, the relationship between the signifier and signified is arbitrary – leaving only synchronicity, i.e. the mere act of understanding – to encapsulate meaning. Otherwise meaning is to be achieved at the end of time, or at the end of the chain of meaning. Approaching economic questions with a similar ontology permits indeterminacy because causality can only be explained after the event, or at the end of time. Kaye-Blake explains, “the present is thus open not because of the past but because of the future.”
Complexity science handles indeterminacy by means of bifurcation. Complexity agrees that cumulative causation shapes a system trajectory, supporting Kaye-Blake’s critique quoted above, but if the parameters of a system are changed, however, attractor basins (or the initial conditions that lead to a particular final state) may appear or disappear. The system itself lacks the vitality to jump from one dependent path to another, but a system reconfiguration may cause bifurcation, thus permitting openness (Allen 2001).
Allen, Peter M. (2001) Knowledge, ignorance, and the evolution of complex systems. In John Foster and J. Stanley Metcalfe (Eds.), Frontiers of Evolutionary Economics: Competition, Self-Organization and Innovation Policy. (pp. 313-351). Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.
University of Bologna
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