Arnsperger on Integral Econ.


I mentioned the other day that I was feeling the integral scene (especially in blogoland) losing steam, but this piece by Christian Arnsperger (posted at Ken Wilber’s Blog) comes along to breathe much needed fresh life. There is so much I could cover in this brilliant brilliant piece (so needed), just highlight a few things.

1)He begins by pointing out where the real action is in the intersection of an already established discipline and the integral meta-methodology (he is using Wilber’s AQAL). This is where the community needs to go–whichever particular brand of meta-theory that prefer. Just learning integral meta-theory without a grounding in actual discipline goes nowhere.

2)On economics–the topic of main interest to me now, he writes the following:

One of the often neglected aspects of economics is that any theoretical utterance is an artefact (in the same way as Wilber says an anthill, a painting, or a product is an artefact). It is many other things, too (for instance, a claim to truth), but it is definitely an artefact, and a subtle one at that—an artefact crafted with words and concepts. Therefore, there has to be an author of the artefact—and that’s the economist. Economists fabricate artefacts and variously group them into what they claim is “economics.” One of the fascinating issues that I have been busy with lately (see Arnsperger 2008: 217-274) is the question of whether the way in which economics as artefact gets fabricated is affected by the recognition that any utterance about “the economy” is itself an artefact within the economy and therefore has UR, LR, UL, and LL facets. In particular, does it make any difference to an economist’s work that she recognizes herself to be the simultaneously subjective and objective author of an objectivity-claiming artefact?

This brings first and second-person considerations (who does economics? To whom does she address it?) into third-person habits (we do economics about “the economy”) and thus breaks up the smug alliance between positivism and “science.” Economics is a science in a way that physics isn’t: when you say something about an iron bar, the molecules don’t react to what you say; when you say something about the economy (perhaps about unemployment or the trade deficit), some or all economic agents will react to what you say because it’s partly about themselves and/or about how they see the economy, and so you need to inquire about your own (first-person) reasons for saying what you say about the economy. That’s part of being a responsible economist, and it’s also part of doing consistent economic science.

Arnsperger’s point about adding to the economy while speaking about it is a very Whiteheadian notion: that by interpretation we add to the world which is itself inherently interpreted.

This also reminds me of and I think dovetails perfectly with what my friend Daniel O’Connor’s work towards a market learning theory. Though early, the potential there is beyond anything–however smart in limited respects–is out there or hot in that market now. Makes them frankly look like child’s play.

The connecting piece is the introduction of consciousness into economics. Not just the assumption of classical homo economicus (rational being) or adversarial only positioning (game theory) or non-designer designed evolutionary economics, or materialist bio-neuro-economics, or descriptions of actual non-rational behavioral econ. But beings that could actually awaken within the market and within themselves within the market.

Not as Arnsperger says so that beings can be managed (top-down authoritarian models) or simply left alone (libertarian excess), but linked up to the driving force of the Kosmos.

Published in: on March 26, 2008 at 10:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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