An important element of the intellectual trend called “postmodernism” is the repudiation of global models of social analysis and global solutions, and their replacement with a focus on local and group differences and the ways in which ordinary individuals adapt to and help reshape their environments. Its proponents often present themselves as populists, hostile to the elitism of modernists, who, on the basis of “essentialist” and “totalizing” theories, suggest that ordinary people are being manipulated and victimized on an unlevel playing field. […] In an academic context, the focus on individual responses and micro-issues of language, text interpretation, and ethnic and gender identity is politically safe and holds forth the possibility of endless deconstructions of small points in a growing framework of technical jargon. The process has been a long-standing one in economics, where mathematics opened up wonderful opportunities for building complex gothic structures on the foundation of very unrealistic assumptions. These models have slight application to reality, but conveniently tend to reaffirm the marvels of the free market, given their simple assumptions of perfect competition, etc. […] It is good to see that the active audience intellectuals are as useful in serving the cause of the “free flow” of information as the mainstream economists are in helping along “free trade.”
Edward Herman, ‘Postmodernism Triumphs’, Z Magazine, January 1996
The orthodox economists, as well as Marx, who in this respect agreed with them, were mistaken in supposing that economic self-interest could be taken as the fundamental motive in social sciences. The desire for commodities, when separated from power and glory, is finite, and can be fully satisfied by a moderate competence. The really expensive desires are not dictated by a love of material comfort. Such commodities as a legislature rendered subservient by corruption, or a private picture gallery of Old Masters selected by experts, are sought for the sake of power or glory, not as affording comfortable places in which to sit. When a moderate degree of comfort is assured, both individuals and communities will pursue power rather than wealth: they may seek wealth as a means to power, or the may forgo an increase of wealth in order to secure an increase of power, but in the former case as in the latter their fundamental motive is not economic.
This error in orthodox and Marxist economics is not merely theoretical, but is of the greatest practical importance, and has caused some of the principal events of recent times to be misunderstood. It is only by realising that love of power is the cause of the activities that are important in social affairs that history, whether ancient or modern, can be rightly interpreted.
Bertrand Russell, Power: A New Social Analysis, London, 1938, p. 9
No es por casualidad que la mayoría de los economistas neoclásicos son profesores, y que en cambio los expertos en administración no usan la economía neoclásica y se inclinan frecuentemente por la escuela institucionalista, la que preconiza la intervención redistribuidora, moderadora y reguladora del Estado.
Mario Bunge, ‘Hayek: ¿economista o ideólogo?, in Elogio de la curiosidad, Buenos Aires, 1998, pp. 75-76