Monocentrism as a New Ontology of Economics

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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 (1)

  • 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.

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