Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.90 shipping
+ $7.62 shipping
The World in the Model: How Economists Work and Think Paperback – November 8, 2012
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
"The skillful combination of history and philosophy of science makes The World in the Model a must-read ... All should come away with a better understanding of the small worlds economists work with and a more balanced assessment of their epistemic value."
"This well-informed and beautifully written series of case studies offers the best analysis to date of how economists work with models. It should help all economists think more deeply about what they do and give others insights into the way economic reasoning works."
Roger Backhouse, University of Birmingham
"Mary Morgan has developed a distinctive approach to economic methodology, relying on a great variety of examples - each one analysed and dissected in-depth like a careful entomologist. Her main message is that modelling should be kept distinct from formalism and mathematization: when we model, we use a specific entity both as an object of enquiry and as an instrument to study economic reality. Historians and philosophers of economics have been waiting for this book for years, and it will not fail to impress."
Francesco Guala, University of Milan
"Modern economics is about models - they are the 'working objects' of economic science - and yet we have traditionally had so little understanding of exactly what models are and how they work. This book provides us with that understanding. It is the culmination of Mary Morgan's many years of research on economic models and as such it is the definitive treatment of the subject. She gives us a complex historical investigation - not 3-by-5 card economic methodology - and such a detailed case studies-based history is exactly what is needed to understand the diversity of ways that models work, and have worked, in economic science. It will be an instant classic in the history and philosophy of modern economics."
D. Wade Hands, University of Puget Sound
"The Nobel laureate James Heckman has written that, just as the Jews are 'the people of the book', economists are 'the people of the model'. Mary Morgan in her The World in the Model provides an anthropological account of economists as model-makers and model-users - a mixture of their stories, their practices, and their languages. In Morgan's case studies, history provides an insightful window on methodology and philosophy, which, in turn, enlightens and enlivens a complex and previously untold history."
Kevin D. Hoover, Duke University
"In this superb book, models appear as little, artificial worlds, and Mary Morgan is the perfect guide to their structures and mysteries. Never content with generalizations, she joins the reader in exploring a series of rich and intriguing cases and shows how much the modern role of economics depends on the ambiguous relationships of these models to real economic institutions and behaviors."
Ted Porter, University of California, Los Angeles
"The World in the Model argues that economic models are not merely or mainly representations of phenomena; they are flexible tools that configure the domain, constitute its objects, and display salient features, thereby facilitating thinking about economics. Through a series of carefully crafted case studies, Mary S. Morgan shows how economic modeling and thinking about economic matters evolved in tandem. Anyone interested in scientific models or in economic understanding will find this book rewarding."
Catherine Z. Elgin, Harvard University
In the time of Adam Smith, economists used words both to describe their economic world and to argue about its laws. Nowadays, economists describe the world in pieces of mathematics and explain the phenomena of the real-world economy by reasoning with those little models. The World in the Model tells the story of this major cognitive shift in the way economic science is done, a shift involving imaginative and creative resources as well as a new mode of reasoning.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Still, it's to the author's credit that a book that might have been conceptually and mathematically unreadable for non-specialists is, given an enormous amount of patience, more or less accessible for most readers. The author works against herself, however, by explaining comparatively simple ideas with two or three pages when one or two paragraphs would have been enough. For example, I was having trouble following her account of some of the concepts that eventually became intrinsic to the Edgeworth Box as it gradually, and with the participation of numerous economics luminaries, became a standard economic tool. In every instance, however, I was able to quickly and easily find reliable, succinct, and easy to understand explanations by going online. I agree that, given her objectives and the audience of professionals for whom I assume she was writing, she has no obligation to compensate for readers' lack of economic knowledge. In this instance, however, that definitely is not the point. Instead, once again, her over-blown prose style is so lacking in economy of language that she often makes things much harder to understand than need be the case.
To make matters worse, in reference to Quesnay's Tableaux Economique, which she characterizes as the first economic model and which she introduces early on, the author acknowledges that for contemporary readers, including economists, the way the model is used cannot be discerned. It's possible that I misunderstood her or missed her point, but this is hardly the way to encourage readers to continue with even a modicum of confidence that they will benefit from reading her unduly long book.
The same holds with regard to Morgan's presentation on page 124 of an extremely complex graphical model from Leontief's "The Pure Theory of the Guaranteed Wage Contract." In contrast to her usual prolixity, she doesn't bother with any sort of explanation for the graph, and it's inclusion seems gratuitous and distracting. Perhaps, as she intimates much farther along, Leontief's model is there just to show us how complex the originally simple and easy to grasp Edgeworth Box can get. An alternative possibility is that the author wants to show us what happens when complementary graphical models are presented in overlay in one diagram rather than singly and sequentially. Who knows?
Whatever the case, a book that is already heavy-laden with material that requires close and careful reading and single-minded attention to detail is, without good reason, made even more demanding. Additional confusion follows from Morgan's failure to make clear if unraveling the more complex models is essential to understanding her presentation. Whether or not to bother figuring out a particular model in a book about models is a decision readers should not have to make.
The author's discussion of the Newlyn-Phillips Machine, a macroeconomic model that uses the flow of water through a complex assortment of tubes, sumps, and valves may be the best written part of the book. A mechanical and hydraulic model that its inventors suggested could resolve difficult questions, such as whether John Maynard Keynes or his adversary, Lionel Roberts, had the right explanation of the determination of interest rates. According to the machine, there is merit in both arguments, but how are we to know? Throughout the book, Morgan makes repeated reference to "the world inside the model" and "the world outside the model." In this instance, however, she completely loses sight of the latter, leaving us to wonder if the conclusion inferred from the Newlyn-Phillips Machine has merit.
Even more troubling is the fact that the machine, in its different versions, is extremely difficult to use. Some might go so far as to characterize it as so close to being unworkable for anyone other than Newlyn and Phillips that it is simply unreliable, roughly analogous to the discrediting of an experiment because it cannot be replicated. What good is it? If I understand Morgan, the most recent research on the Newlyn-Phillips model was reported by David Vines (2000), who based his work on closely examining the machine as it sat idle -- no water flowing! -- and reading its instructional manual. Hardly inspires confidence. It seems incongruous, moreover, that discussion of this manipulable but mindless mechanism occurs immediately after a chapter that deals in part with how human beings as economic actors think and behave.
I have to admit that I don't know what to make of Morgan's repeated judgment that contemporary economists are victims of trained incapacity. Those are not her words, but her meaning is clear when she claims that Keynes' General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (1936) would be just about unreadable to an economist trained in the 21st Century. Too many words in Keynes. Too much mixing of words with abstract modeling. And this from an author who argues forcefully that the use of economic models is most fruitful when accompanied by informative narratives!
No, I did not read Morgan's footnotes. They are so numerous and long that they might well constitute another book. I would like to be able to say that there are general statements about models and modeling that I found compelling in Morgan's account, or that I was able to tentatively discern generalizations that are not explicitly stated. But such is not the case. In any event, I don't think that repeating words like "cognition," "intuition," "imagination," and "visualization" qualifies.
I spent a lot of time trying to make the most of The World in the Model. At this point, it's all pretty much a blur. I'm not sure if I'm more disappointed in the book or in my inability to make lasting sense of it.
Actually, the figures are a strong point in the book. There are many figures of models and graphs by great thinkers throughout the book that I want to look at and understand. This should be an easy way to get sucked in to a book, but I think the problem is that the captions only tell the name and who allowed it to be reproduced, where a brief description about what it is might lead me to be intrigued enough that I want to learn more and go to the text to find it, but somehow the text is rather impenetrable. Also, all that "reproduced with permission by" stuff is a bit offputting as well - would be better to hide it away in the fine print.
Honestly, I feel sort of stupid for even thinking it, but I wish this book were dumbed down, had some more "white space", and stuff like that. Perhaps a real economist would think differently, but I can't offer that perspective.
When I first opened the book I was reminded, almost at once, of the work of Mark Blaug and Peter Lloyd a few years ago Famous Figures and Diagrams in Economics which can be seen as a complementary good of this one.
In my first year of initiation into the hallowed halls of economics I was introduced to the puzzle of the discipline, science or art, positive or normative. It seemed so much simpler in those days where there were only a few perspectives whereas now there quite a few more. It was a broad church, yet unifying all views was the use of models.
My preferences lay in the Classical School, the works of Smith and Mill, although these days my interests lie in networks and complex systems. Today, much of what constitutes contemporary professional economics is based heavily on mathematics and statistics.
Morgan's excellent work spans over three centuries and because her focus is on models she manages to subsume much of economic theory under the development of the type of models used. Very deftly she manages to make her case in an objective manner without showing any preference for any particular side in the conflict between ideas and, if anything is arguing the case that all economists, regardless of perspective, share common ground in the use of models to see the world.
Throught my reading of this book I kept thinking of Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions The Structure of Scientific Revolutions: 50th Anniversary Edition and his postulation of periods of normal science and puzzle solving. It appeared to me that that is indeed, what Mary Morgan is describing, how the nature of economics has changed throughout the period since Smith wrote the Wealth of Nations An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations Indeed, the conclusion that game theory has brought no clear resolution to general economic problems suggests that perhaps a gestalt switch is at hand.
For me the greatest thing about this book has been that the preference expressed by John Maynard Keynes that "If economists could manage to get themselves thought of as humble, competent people on a level with dentists, that would be splendid." has been repudiated. That is to say that economics is a vibrant discipline where the professional world view is under attack from scholars who wish to look beyond the confines of mathematical logic A Guide to What's Wrong with Economics (Anthem Studies in Development and Globalization) and also Pluralist Economics a trend which was in motion before the Financial Crisis began and which was strengthened because of it. One of the illuminations obtained from the crisis was the antithesis of the use of models for reasoning in that those working in the financial services field began to try and make the world conform to their models.
This is an outstanding book which should be on the shelves of historians and economists alike.