Social Connection and the Responsible Economist

Book chapter

Duckworth, C. (2021). Social Connection and the Responsible Economist. in: Negru, Ioana & Dolfsma, Wilfred (ed.) The Ethical Formation of Economists Routledge. pp. 61-76
AuthorsDuckworth, C.
EditorsNegru, Ioana & Dolfsma, Wilfred

In The Economist's Oath (2011), George DeMartino presents arguments in favour of the ethical reform of economics and what he sees as its usual style of policy formation and implementation. A central component of his argument is a harm-based thesis that points to the too often profoundly negative implications of economic intervention. He couples this with a character-based account of the normative basis of a needed revision of existing economic praxis. While the harm-based aspect of DeMartino’s thesis draws attention to the consequences of economists’ professional conduct, the character-based dimension considers its consistency with their personal moral outlooks. The harm-based aspect provides a normative reason to introduce a behavioural code into professional economic practice, while the emphasis on character is intended to prevent this reducing to mere rule following. I argue in this chapter that DeMartino cannot easily help himself to either of these positions. Harm and character-based views are found wanting when viewed in the light of certain structural features of a professional economic ethic. They produce only unproductive confrontation between this kind of proponent of professional economic ethics and (the many) economists who defend a restricted, technical conception of the profession. Alternative support for his thesis can be found, however, in the shape of Iris Marion Young's social connection theory of personal responsibility. Applied to economics, Young demands that economists adopt a perspective that incorporates an appreciation of the role of their discipline in shaping societal outcomes. It requires economists to take an extra-disciplinary perspective that takes into account its societal consequences. In this way, Young’s thesis offers a way to ground DeMartino’s arguments that avoids mere intellectual standoff. Her thesis also has important implications for the place of pluralist or meta-methodological thinking in economics. While many argue for the benefits of a pluralist perspective, Young's thesis offers a way to see it as a professional responsibility.

KeywordsGeorge DeMartino, Iris Marion Young, Pluralist Economics
Page range61-76
Book titleThe Ethical Formation of Economists
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Publication dates
Print01 Mar 2021
Publication process dates
Deposited09 Mar 2022
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