NEOCLASSICAL ECONOMICS 5
fact that society is seen as an agglomeration of individuals whose nature is given, who do not combine together in a social production process and whose only link with each other is through the buying and selling of commodities, market phenomena must inevitably assume primary position.
Thus, vulgar economy or neoclassical economics is characterised by subjective individualism, naturalism and the primacy it awards to exchange. The effects of vulgar economy have been twofold : at a scientific level it has inhibited, if not entirely prevented, serious study of the capitalist mode of production and the 'economic law of motion of modern society5;
and at an ideological level it has provided a moral justification of the existing social order.
These two effects, although related to each other, are analytically distinct and it would be a mistake to assume that every neoclassical economist is an apologist for the capitalist system. The individual practitioner of neoclassical economics may be motivated by the purest spirit of scientific curiosity or may even be a socialist who finds the present social order morally repugnant. This fact does not, however, alter the objective effects of neoclassical economics as a system of thought. No matter what the aspirations of its more progressive practitioners, the conceptual framework and starting point of neoclassical economics render virtually impossible a scientific analysis of the capitalist or any other mode of production. Once these concepts and starting points are accepted the main lines of analytical development are predetermined, and attempts to modify this development in the name of 'greater realism9 take on an inevitably eclectic character. Genuine scientific advance becomes possible only to the extent that the original system of thought is, implicitly, or explicitly, abandoned. To use Bachelard's expression, neoclassical economics constitutes an 'epistemological obstacle9 whose significant effect on a scientific plane is simply to inhibit the development of an authentic science of modes of production.4 Despite a formidable mathematical apparatus, the contribution of neoclassical economics to such a social science has been negligible. Of course, the mathematical methods found in modern neoclassical economics have been of great importance in such fields as linear programming, where the aim is to develop the science of rational choice or, as it has been called, 'praxiology'. But the fact that neoclassical economics and praxiology share the same mathematical methods and, within limits, the same conceptual framework, does not in any way validate the pretensions of neoclassical economics, when it claims to be the general starting point from which a science of the capitalist mode of production should begin. The relationship between these two systems of thought may be polemically compared to that between astrology and astronomy, which share the same vocabulary and, within limits, the same concepts. But this in no way validates astrology as a science which enables us to understand human destiny.
Although useful as a system of thought serving to justify the capi-