Monocentrism as a New Ontology of Economics

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Abstract

The vast majority of economists acknowledge that there is a wide range of issues concerning economic relations. The need for economic relations control became obvious, not only at a country level, but also on a global scale, by virtue of the worldwide interrelationship and interdependence of each country.

If we consider knowledge to be a conjunction of data – which ensures an understanding of reality and enables us to take appropriate actions – it is clear that economists do not share the same view of what the economy actually is.

US President Harry S. Truman once asked to find a “one-handed economist” because every time he consulted his economic advisors on economic policy development, he heard “on the one hand….. on the other hand”.  Seventy years have passed since then, but comprehension of reality has not altered, so that even now our actions – translated into an economic policy – lead to crisis. It follows that, for an accurate understanding of reality, it is necessary to answer the question of what an economy is. In other words, it is essential to take a new look at the ontological basis of economics. This is the only way to accurately assess the complexity of economic issues and economics as a science.

Monocentrism is a philosophical approach that allows us to take a fresh look at the complexity of the subject being studied, alongside existing socio-economic development issues. According to this outlook, the world is unique. Everything we see or do not see is a fragment of the world. Every fragment’s task is the transformation of substance and energy. The transformation process of each fragment generates needs. The world represents a functional assembly of fragments from atoms to the planet as a whole. Humans and humankind are fragments of the planetary functional assembly. For humankind, from a social aspect, the transformation process translates into economic relationships – in other words, into social interactions in the production, exchange and distribution of amenities.

The set of values, i.e., what people consider necessary at every stage of humankind’s development, defines sets of amenities as well as means of their production, exchange and distribution.

Identification of values, needs, amenities, means of production, exchange and distribution – as immanent features of economic relationships – allows us to determine the complexity of economic relations and economic science.

In this context, the principle of monocentrism, an underlying feature of the system-based transdisciplinary approach, can be used to interpret national economy, corporate economy and household economy as global economy fragments, and economic relations as a fragment of the relationship between humankind and other fragments of the global functional assembly.

The logic determining the world’s unity allows us to divide socio-economic development problems into actual and pseudo-issues. Just as knowledge of the laws of refraction allows us to understand that a spoon bending in a glass of water is not a ‘fact’, so too the principle of monocentrism will not allow us to mistake pseudo-issues for real ones.

Posted for comments on 23 Oct 2017, 10:14 am.

Comments (2)

  • Brian O’Boyle says:

    In his paper professor Mokiy makes a number of assertions that should be familiar to readers of Economic Thought. Following a line of argument made popular by critical realists, Mokiy argues that economic theory is insufficiently alive to the importance of ontology and that this has had very damaging effects on the discipline. The paper claims – incorrectly in my view – that this deficiency is evident across all of the current schools of economic theory, although professor Mokiy reserves his most explicit criticism for the mathematical modelling characteristic of the economic mainstream. In an argument made previously by Tony Lawson, professor Mokiy insists that modelling techniques cannot capture the ontological reality of a world that is holistic, relational and constantly changing. These arguments are generally persuasive but they have been made before.
    His claim that economics needs a monocentrist ontology does seem more original, but when the language of monocentrism is discounted, it is hard to see what distinguishes it from other heterodox approaches to ontology that emphasise holism, temporality and complex interdependency. The fact that English is not the professor’s first language may be obscuring his argument here, but as it stands, the general ontology seems no different to American institutionalism or post-Keynesianism for example.
    There are also a number of specific weaknesses in the paper as it stands. The first is the focus on values as the ultimate determinant of the social realm. It is perfectly legitimate to posit values as an important set of phenomena in social interaction, but a genuinely social-relational ontology should surely privilege sets of structured social relations – in this case the relationships of capitalism as primary. Positing a social relational ontology alongside an idealist focus on values is therefore problematic in my view. To take just one example -destructive industries – tobacco alcohol etc. – do not emerge ‘due to inharmonious values with the nature world’ but because they are profitable to a class of property owners who currently monopolise the means of production. There are better ways to understand the destruction of nature characteristic of capitalism and this focus on abstract values only serves to obscure them.
    A second weakness is the claim that the household is the key unit of economic investigation. Again a social relational ontology that looks at production, distribution and exchange as part of an organic whole would be better served focusing on the site of these relations in the capitalist economy rather than on the household. Here Marx is the best example as he roots his analysis in the historically determined and constantly developing class relations of production, exchange and distribution in capitalism. Overall this paper makes general ontological claims that are persuasive but unoriginal and back these up with claims about households and values which seem ill-suited to the general ontology. The paper needs considerable work before it could be published.

    • MOKIY MIKHAIL says:

      Dear Mr. Brian O’ Boyle Thank you very much for your comments. Please excuse me for not giving you my immediate response. Indeed, English is not my native language. But that is not the issue. The work really needs to be corrected. Let me please respond to your comments.
      1. You note: In his paper professor Mokiy makes a number of assertions that should be familiar to readers of Economic Thought……… In an argument made previously by Tony Lawson, professor Mokiy insists that modelling techniques cannot capture the ontological reality of a world that is holistic, relational and constantly changing. These arguments are generally persuasive but they have been made before.
      You are absolutely right. I am not the first and not the only one who notes the inconsistency of the prevailing modern economic theories, as well as the complexity and variability of economic relations. But I do not insist on primacy. I only indicate the start point of the discussion about the need to change the ontology of economic science, which underlies any economic theory. By the way, Tony Lawson, whom you mentioned, writes in his works, particularly in « What is wrong with modern economics, and why does it stay wrong?», (2017) Journal of Australian Political Economy
      «The solution can come only through the inclusion, and indeed prioritisation, of courses that are overtly philosophical in nature and encouraging of critical thinking. I do not see how ontology can be reasonably excluded». p39. And further: «Ontology is ever present; the only issue of choice is whether to leave our presuppositions about the nature of social reality implicit and unexamined, or to do ontology in an explicit, systematic, sustained, and thereby more coherent, fashion». P.40

      2. You write: “His claim that economics needs a monocentrist ontology does seem more original, but when the language of monocentrism is discounted, it is hard to see what distinguishes it from other heterodox approaches to ontology that emphasize holism, temporality and complex interdependency.”
      You are right again. I am not the author of the concept of monocentrism (or better -unicentrism). I am engaged in the application of this concept in the economy. The framework of the article did not allow me to explain in detail the main thing – the difference between monocentrism (unicentrism) and holism.
      From the position of monocentrism ((unicentrism), the World is not unimpaired as it is interpreted by holism, but it is unified, i.e., there is only one World. ( The term UNICENTRISM was the result of a merger of two words, UNIFIED and CENTRISM). There are no other worlds. All what we see and still do not observe are fragments of the World. The main function of the fragment of nature is the transformation of substance and energy. This is the World’s immanent property. It (the fragment) consumes them and converts them in one way or another. In this regard, each fragment must be linked to others. Herewith, both the consumption of substance and energy, and delivery of transformed substance and energy are strictly determined by quantity and quality. In other words, the input and output parameters are determined. If this does not happen for some reason, the world evaluates this as a dysfunction. That is, the World develops on the basis of co-evolution. This is the main idea of monocentrism (unicentrism ).
      Human and mankind are the same fragment of nature as microbes, animals, stones, rivers, etc. and transform substance and energy at their own level. For this, people need to enter into relations with all other fragments of the planet, including among themselves. But if the chemical element, the microbe, the baby turtle or the bee, the mechanism of assessing the needs and benefits to meet them, i.e., the parameters of entry and exit, exist at the “genetic level”, then in higher mammals, this mechanism is formed by the society.
      This allows us to interpret social relations between people in the process of production, exchange and distribution of goods and the formation of values as relations in which the laws of nature, the principle of coevolutionary development and, accordingly, the harmony and not the harmoniousness of needs as a violation of the principle of determinism of the parameters of the “entrance” and “exit” lie.
      Monocentrism (unicentrism ) allows you to change the paradigm of economic science. The works of many remarkable economists have revealed many features of economic relations. This is well known to readers of Economic Thought. It is written a lot about the merits and demerits of each of the directions. Existing economic theories, currents and trends are, so to speak, a bunch of puzzles. The philosophy of monocentrism (unicentrism) makes it possible to add them correctly. It allows to evaluate the role, place and significance of each of the signs of economic relations.
      3. You are absolutely correct writing that “To take just one example -destructive industries – tobacco alcohol etc. – do not emerge ‘due to inharmonious values with the nature world’ but because they are profitable to a class of property owners who currently monopolize the means of production”. That’s right, but why do they monopolize the means of production and seek profit? Understanding of mankind as a fragment of the planet and the world makes it possible to interpret this as an incorrect value system, as a violation of the principle of determinism of the parameters of the “entrance” and “exit”.
      4. Next, you write: “A second weakness is the claim that the household is the key unit of economic investigation. Again, a social relational ontology that looks at production, distribution and exchange as part of an organic whole would be better served focusing on the site of these relations in the capitalist economy rather than on the household.”. I cannot recognize this as a flaw. There is room for discussion here. Economic relations are relations between people in society. They were always under capitalism and under socialism and under the slave system. And always the rules of this relationship, which people have established, concerned the life of households. Yea, as can be seen from the history, this mainly concerned the improvement of the situation of only a part of households. The rules are always based on a system of values in each era. Suffice it to recall the indignation in the British society of the 17th century by the fact that the lower strata wanted to imitate the higher one. The workers wanted to drink tea! And with wheat bread. All social upheavals at all times – slave revolts, Luddite revolts, peasant uprisings, revolutions and present strikes – are a consequence of the fact that people understood the injustice of these rules with respect to their households or even the inability to have them. From the point of view of the ontology that we propose, the household is the ultimate consumer of all created goods.
      Once again, thank you for reading my article and commenting on it. I would be happy if you get acquainted with its new version.
      Very Truly Yours,
      Mikhail Mokiy

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