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A classic in its field, this pathbreaking book humanized the scientific rhetoric of economics to reveal its literary soul. In this completely revised second edition, Deirdre N. McCloskey demonstrates how economic discourse employs metaphor, authority, symmetry, and other rhetorical means of persuasion. The Rhetoric of Economics shows economists to be human persuaders, poet A classic in its field, this pathbreaking book humanized the scientific rhetoric of economics to reveal its literary soul. In this completely revised second edition, Deirdre N. McCloskey demonstrates how economic discourse employs metaphor, authority, symmetry, and other rhetorical means of persuasion. The Rhetoric of Economics shows economists to be human persuaders, poets of the marketplace, even in their most technical and mathematical moods.


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A classic in its field, this pathbreaking book humanized the scientific rhetoric of economics to reveal its literary soul. In this completely revised second edition, Deirdre N. McCloskey demonstrates how economic discourse employs metaphor, authority, symmetry, and other rhetorical means of persuasion. The Rhetoric of Economics shows economists to be human persuaders, poet A classic in its field, this pathbreaking book humanized the scientific rhetoric of economics to reveal its literary soul. In this completely revised second edition, Deirdre N. McCloskey demonstrates how economic discourse employs metaphor, authority, symmetry, and other rhetorical means of persuasion. The Rhetoric of Economics shows economists to be human persuaders, poets of the marketplace, even in their most technical and mathematical moods.

30 review for The Rhetoric of Economics

  1. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Roberts

    I once took a Macroeconomics methods course with a tenured faculty member from a top economics department. After one class, I came up to him and asked about whether he was concerned that one of the econometric techniques he taught [think matrix stacking] required a fair number of subjective judgments ex-ante which produced ambiguity when interpreting results. He broke into a somewhat sheepish grin and replied that Economics is after all simply a matter of Economists arguing over priors using too I once took a Macroeconomics methods course with a tenured faculty member from a top economics department. After one class, I came up to him and asked about whether he was concerned that one of the econometric techniques he taught [think matrix stacking] required a fair number of subjective judgments ex-ante which produced ambiguity when interpreting results. He broke into a somewhat sheepish grin and replied that Economics is after all simply a matter of Economists arguing over priors using tool-kits as a form of mutually understandable rhetoric – like McCloskey might suggest. This glib analysis – spoken by an expert whose pubic-facing published papers project none of this ironic humility on economic knowledge – has stuck with me since. I think McCloskey’s Critique (as her thoughts here presented have come to be known) is at once more optimistic and more constructively critical than this matrix manipulator’s interpretation in paraphrase. Although she takes aim at overly self-assured social scientists, her picture of economics doesn’t cast it as “mere rhetoric”. Rather, she suggests that the whole project of science – physical, social, or “human” – is carefully supported argumentation rather than the cold “objective” falsification from the logical positivist perspective. In so arguing, McCloskey engages in extensive intellectual arbitrage from post-modernist philosophy and literary criticism. As any economics student knows, arbitrage adds values for consumers who would lack access otherwise – no doubt the case here. McCloskey brings a bevy of thinkers and direct quotations to bear that are far outside of your average economist’s reading list, to enlightening effect. One suspects that a fair amount is lost in this exchange. As McCloskey herself argues, appeals to authority matter, and McCloskey is hardly an authority on epistemology or the philosophy of science – though I’m in no position myself to point out exactly where and how that shows. This encourages special skepticism in latter parts of the book, where McCloskey diverges from pointing out economic rhetoric in practice towards expounding her dog in the fight between modernism and its discontents with impressive but unconvincing bravado. Nor are the analogies tying economics to linguistics and literature entirely convincing. A straw-woman McCloskey might address these criticisms with a knowing wink – isn’t a rhetor’s job to convince us of their well-grounded perspective more than anything else? Perhaps, but sending signals of self-assured sophistry hardly helps her cause. Nonetheless, the “Rhetoric of Economics” is a helpful pedagogical tool, for self-teaching or classrooms. If nothing else than for helpfully casting light on foundational philosophical debates for readers who otherwise might go on trucking with simplistic scientism. The inclusion of the chapter on “significance stars” in basic econometrics syllabi, for example, would be salutary (as it was for a time series econometrics course I took). The book would also be a useful read for starry-eyed social scientists from adjacent disciplines, who have been drifting moth-like in recent years towards the light of “rigor” that economics promises. Later chapters should be especially sobering for chest-beating “methodologists” (see: political science) who’ve taken to sneering at the perceived subjectivity of their co-disciplinary fellows.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Santhoshi Srilaya

    Aunt Deirdre had an excellent premise - treating economics like a text and doing a literary criticism of it. This is one of those books where you can't go back to seeing things as you did before. She completely destroys the idea of scientific nature of economics and shows how economists also use figurative metaphors and write stories like poets and novelists, or like 'the arts'. However, her aim isn't really to attack economics, as she kept mentioning several times. It is to reform. Under the gu Aunt Deirdre had an excellent premise - treating economics like a text and doing a literary criticism of it. This is one of those books where you can't go back to seeing things as you did before. She completely destroys the idea of scientific nature of economics and shows how economists also use figurative metaphors and write stories like poets and novelists, or like 'the arts'. However, her aim isn't really to attack economics, as she kept mentioning several times. It is to reform. Under the guise of pure science, many racist, patriarchal and colonial ideas dominate economics. This was the case with many fields but they could accept criticism and reform - which made them stronger. Anthropology is one such field - It once rested completely upon racist ideas but now has space for a range of diverse ideas. Accommodating multiple ideas and constantly correcting them;Being aware that nothing is free of value,aesthetic, form etc - these things will only enrich the field, not tear it down. Economists should get off the high toy horse and do some real introspection.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Vadim

    Прославленный экономист Дирдра Макклоски, написавшая к настоящему времени шестнадцать книг и более четырех сотен научных работ, возглавлявшая в прошлом американскую ассоциацию экономических историков, в книге "Риторика экономики" подтвердила то, что подозревали многие: экономика не Наука. Наука, как ее принято понимать среди экономистов, да и обывателей, полагается на логику и факты. Однако экономисты, как и литераторы, пользуются в статьях метафорами и историями. Экономисты рисуются, в смысле с Прославленный экономист Дирдра Макклоски, написавшая к настоящему времени шестнадцать книг и более четырех сотен научных работ, возглавлявшая в прошлом американскую ассоциацию экономических историков, в книге "Риторика экономики" подтвердила то, что подозревали многие: экономика не Наука. Наука, как ее принято понимать среди экономистов, да и обывателей, полагается на логику и факты. Однако экономисты, как и литераторы, пользуются в статьях метафорами и историями. Экономисты рисуются, в смысле сознательно создают у читателя определенный образ себя, а не только предмета. Макклоски полагает, что все это к лучшему. Не являясь "Наукой", экономика все же является хорошей нормальной наукой. Любые ученые, включая физиков, химиков и биологов, на которых экономистам так хотелось бы походить, пользуются всем богатством средств убеждения, и каждое средство может помочь понять мир. Плохо сводить методы исследования лишь к логике, а логику к modus tollens (из А следует Б, раз не видим Б, то нет и А; если кто-то недавно почистил зубы, щетка будет мокрой, однако щетка сухая, значит зубы не чистили). Хорошие исследователи достигают успеха именно потому что не практикуют то, что принято подавать как методологию экономики. Книга Макклоски поможет любому участнику разговора про экономику. Осознав, какими приемами убеждения он в реальности пользуется, экономист сможет соотнести их с лучшими образцами в своем роде. Напротив, слушатель, критик, сможет лучше распознать изъяны аргументации. Стоит ли говорить, что говорящий и сам должен быть своим первым критиком?

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jing-li Yu

    Like many books, The Rhetoric of Economics would perhaps have been better if it were half the length. I understand the basic premise to be: regardless of whether there is objective truth, we need human persuasion to implement that understanding; the sooner economists recognize that there is a persuasive element in their science, rather than simply hammering out objective truth, the better they will be at persuading, and the better they will be at arriving at their truths. For instance, one espec Like many books, The Rhetoric of Economics would perhaps have been better if it were half the length. I understand the basic premise to be: regardless of whether there is objective truth, we need human persuasion to implement that understanding; the sooner economists recognize that there is a persuasive element in their science, rather than simply hammering out objective truth, the better they will be at persuading, and the better they will be at arriving at their truths. For instance, one especially insightful point is how, by neglecting the rhetorical element of economics, economists often confuse statistical significance with significance as commonly understood. And if they were aware of economics as rhetoric, they would do a better job of actually trying to arrive at commonly-understood significant results rather than merely crunching out numbers that are statistically significant, and assuming that these findings actually are significant. I think it's mostly good, but maybe it gets a little too preachy at some points, and becomes an anti-modernist screed. But at the same time, McCloskey does warn us that this is an introductory book, and the full philosophical examination is found in other works. As an introductory work, I think it does a pretty good job.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

    Became clear early on that this was written by an incredibly conservative economist who thought the discipline was fine but that economists could use a bit of training on rhetoric. Disappointing. When she lauded Gary Becker for his discussion of "criminals" as "small business owners," it was obvious that none of this would actually fundamentally criticize economics for its use of mathematical jargon to construct a conservative worldview, which is at the top of the list of necessities when consid Became clear early on that this was written by an incredibly conservative economist who thought the discipline was fine but that economists could use a bit of training on rhetoric. Disappointing. When she lauded Gary Becker for his discussion of "criminals" as "small business owners," it was obvious that none of this would actually fundamentally criticize economics for its use of mathematical jargon to construct a conservative worldview, which is at the top of the list of necessities when considering a critique of economic rhetoric.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kerry

    This book is very intellectually difficult for me. I wish I had a seminar each week to work through one of the chapters with others reading the book and a professor with a deep understanding of the material. This book uses technical rhetorical analysis to understand technical economics papers and while everything I get out of it is interesting, I feel like I'm not getting it all.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Paul Custwr

    Deirdre is my mentor, so I'm biased... but anybody who applies the word "science" to themselves without a problematic really must read this book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Marco

    A well-written, provocative book on economic argumentation and the limits of Modernist-influenced thought in Economics.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Craig Bolton

    The Rhetoric of Economics (Rhetoric of the Human Sciences) by Deirdre N. McCloskey (1998)

  10. 4 out of 5

    Omeed Maghzian

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tim Husson

  12. 5 out of 5

    Homa

  13. 4 out of 5

    JOSE G S VIEIRA

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tanopadj

  15. 5 out of 5

    David

  16. 5 out of 5

    Coady

  17. 4 out of 5

    Steve

  18. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

  19. 4 out of 5

    Andy

  20. 5 out of 5

    Liz

  21. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

  22. 4 out of 5

    Princess

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mark Bail

  25. 5 out of 5

    Alex Moss

  26. 4 out of 5

    Todd Vickers

  27. 5 out of 5

    Simón(e) Sun

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mobutu2

  29. 4 out of 5

    Stefany Bolaños

  30. 4 out of 5

    Paul Swartz

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