Social Scientist. v 19, no. 214-15 (Mar-April 1991) p. 49.

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Division and Difference in the 'Discipline' of Economics*^

The existence and unity of a discipline called economics reside in the eye and mind of the beholder. The perception of economics as unity and disciplinarity, itself, arises in some, but not all, of the different schools of thought that we would loosely categorize as economic. Indeed, as we hope to show, the presumption of unity and disciplinarity—the idea that there is a center or 'core' of propositions, procedures, and conclusions or a shared historical 'object* of theory and practice—is suggested in the concepts and methods of some schools of economic thought, but is opposed by others. Further, we argue that the portrayal of economics as a discipline with distinct boundaries is often a discursive strategy by one school tfr another to hegemonize the field of economic discourse. In this way, the issue of the existence of an economics discipline and its principles of unity or dispersion is in part a political question. Its effects are felt in the hiring and firing of economic professors and practitioners, the determination of what comprises an economics curriculum, the determination of what is legitimate economic argument and what is not, the dispensation of public and private grant monies, and the differential entry into or exclusion from ideological, political, and economic centers of power and decision making.

Our view is that no discipline of economics exists. Or, rather, no unified discipline exists. The 'discipline* of economics is actually an agonistic and shifting field of fundamentally different and often conflicting discourses. The dispersion and divisions that exist between the schools of thought we discuss here as 'economic' may have some regularities^ But we do not see closer contiguity of these economic schools when placed on a horizonal among, to take just one example, all

* University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

** This paper was presented originally at the conference entitled 'Disdplinarity:

Formations, Rhetorics, Histories' at the University of Minnesota in April 1989.

Social Scientist, Vol. 19, Nos. 3-4, March-April 1991

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