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The Rhetoric of Economics (Rhetoric of the Human Sciences) Paperback

ISBN-13: 978-0299158149 ISBN-10: 0299158144 Edition: 2nd

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Product Details

  • Series: Rhetoric of the Human Sciences
  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press; 2 edition (April 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0299158144
  • ISBN-13: 978-0299158149
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #271,465 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“The most thoughtful book on economics in years.”—Philadelphia Enquirer



“McCloskey takes aim at the ‘dismal science’s’ scientific pretensions in this pathfinding, elegantly written, and intellectually razor-sharp book.”—Washington Post



“McCloskey must be credited with the singular achievement of introducing the major philosophers of the twentieth century into a discussion of the methodology of economics.”—Times Literary Supplement



“McCloskey’s target is the pretentious scientism in which economists couch their mutual persuasions—a scientism that lingers on as the near-official language of economics discourse long after its inadequacies have been recognized by philosophers and scientists.”—New York Review of Books



“The importance of McCloskey’s work cannot be overstated.”—Quarterly Journal of Speech

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Deirdre N. McCloskey is the UIC Distinguished Professor of Economics, History, English, and Communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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See all 9 customer reviews
McCloskey has read pretty much every book and scholarly paper in the library on his subject and 2.
Adam A. Odorizzi
One of the best sources to support that case is Karl Popper but you would never know that from reading this book.
Rafe Champion
For anyone with an interest in philosophy, or economics, this is well worth reading, a real eye-opener.
C. Collins

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Michael S Christian on February 20, 2003
Format: Paperback
Even though this isn't the intent of the book (it's a persuasive work about the role of rhetoric in economics), I found this to be a really useful read when trying to write better economics papers of my own. It's ironically better in this regard than McCloskey's more explicitly instructional books, particular "Economical Writing," because of its emphasis on ideas rather than on rules; it advances a way of thinking about economics that makes economics easier to write about. For example, to McCloskey, economic models are metaphors, and I've found that writing about an economic model as a kind of metaphor rather than as some sort of idealized version of the truth is much easier. I don't pretend to have understood all of its insights (it's a challenging read), but the ones I understood were very helpful.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By C. Collins on June 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
I first read this book as an undergrad economist, well over 10 years ago now. I discovered the book, in the course of writing about the evolution of the Phillips curve. What the Phillips curve offered, initially at least, was the embodiment of empirically-based economic theory, yet it metamorphosed, into the New Classical 'expectations-augmented' model, and the New Business School model with each, in turn, becoming accepted 'truth' by mainstream economics. What could account for this shift? Clearly it was not based on anything related to 'positive' economics or empiricism, since the theory behind the 'curve' (which was no longer a curve)had long since been wrung dry of any meaningful empirical content.

While I don't recall all of the details, this book, and McCloskey's other writings on the same theme, support the idea that, while Truth (to be differentiated from trivialities, things that are true 'by definition', for example), does exist, WE HAVE NO WAY OF COMING TO RECOGNISE IT - there are no objective criteria for doing so, that is distinguishing truth from falsity. It may come as a shock to some, but there is no dissenting from this point - if you know of any such criteria, let me know.

The slightly controversial, but logical, point that follows is, therefore, to disregard Truth as a 'useful' concept, with any explanatory power. The key to the acceptance of theory (as if it were the Truth), not just in economics, lies ultimately in its 'persuasiveness', something that is engendered through the use of 'mere rhetoric'. McCloskey is not arguing that this is how things 'should' be, but how they are - in grubby, messy reality.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Rafe Champion on May 28, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Deirdre McCloskey is a passionate advocate of rhetoric in economics as opposed to "big M" Methodology. She likes to project the image of a "tough New York broad" and the result is a style that obscures her message. The bluster and smart-alec citations actually undermine the core of her case which is (I think) that we need to lift our game in critical arguments (which she calls rhetoric) instead of being over-awed by defective statistical analysis and especially by the ruling fashions in the positivist philosophy and methodology of science.

One of the best sources to support that case is Karl Popper but you would never know that from reading this book.

"I started again to read philosophy of science (I had stopped in graduate school, just short of the Karl Popper level). More important, around 1980 I came upon history and sociology of science that challenged the reigning philosophy. Scientists, these crazy radicals claimed, were not the macho saints that Popper said they were." (xi)

Not sure what it means to stop just short of the Karl Popper level, possibly it means she stopped short of reading Popper. She would have encountered the sociology of science (which Ian Jarvie called "the social turn") in chapter 23 of The Open Society and its Enemies, where Popper wrote:

"Everyone who has an inkling of the history of the natural sciences is aware of the passionate tenacity which characterizes many of its quarrels. No amount of political partiality can influence political theories more strongly than the partiality shown by some natural scientists in favour of their intellectual offspring..."

So much for Popper's description of scientists as "macho saints".
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10 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Adam A. Odorizzi on May 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
Although the fame of the author has taken a probably undesirable sensationalistic turn as a result of Donald's becoming, in 1996, Deirdre, the ouevre of his real fame, genius, and erudition are on display in this, the first of his trilogy on the Rhetoric of Inquiry, economics style. The second two successively are "If You're So Smart..." and "Knowledge and Persuasion in Economics". Though the third is, in my opinion, one of the most amazing works ever penned on economic methodology, his magnum opus (all three were written pre "crossing" so the pronoun "him" will be used). Cliche alert: This book should be required reading for ALL graduate economics students (though, again, the third even much more so). 'S hackneyed but 's true, friends. Buy it, read it, and you will feel what it's like to be inside the mind of a scholarly genius. He focuses on the rhetorical tetrad in economic analysis as a way of storytelling (rather than apodictic dogma) and a quick glance at his glossary will show you two things: 1. McCloskey has read pretty much every book and scholarly paper in the library on his subject and 2. His postmodernist proclivities. Although despite this many will be suprised to find that McCloskey is a libertarian, laissez-faire economist, a rarity even at the Chicago School, where he was reared and studied under Alchian, Stiglitz, and Friedman, among others. McCloskey in fact inspired me to see through a lot of the dishonest and snide ideological incompetents who have used postmodernism as a genus from which they derive their incoherent leftist, socialist positions.Read more ›
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