Measure and rule: How science and government produce economic knowledge

TERRA ECONOMICUS, , Vol. 19 (no. 3),

The article explores the phenomenon of parallel existence and relatively autonomous development of two different epistemic cultures in the body of economic knowledge – academic and expert-administrative ones. Firstly, we consider how the state-knowledge-statistics nexus has been formed. This enables us to understand the role of statistics as a key link between different epistemic cultures and recognize quantification as the foundation of the cognitive style for both an economist and a state administrator. Secondly, we show how the ideal of quantitative public administration is developed in engineering practices related to the solution of large infrastructure projects of the state. At the same time quantitative facts and statistics becomes the defining condition for effective public policy. Thirdly, we trace how, against the background of the flourishing quantitative engineering practices, a counter task was shaped: building of a pure theoretical economic science, which should be fundamentally detached from practice and adapts the mathematized physics as a disciplinary paradigm. The study enables us to suggest a hypothesis that it is technocratic state administration grounded on knowledge as a key element of power`s growth that is largely responsible for the unrealistic and oversimplified nature of economics. The ontological gap with “objective reality” is in fact embedded in administrative practices. In turn, scientific economic knowledge, being incorporated in the practices of public administration, gradually loses the goals defined by scientific ethos.
Citation: Koshovets O.B. (2021). Measure and rule: How science and government produce economic knowledge. Terra Economicus 19(3): 6–19. DOI: 10.18522/2073-6606-2021-19-3-6-19

Keywords: economic knowledge; expert knowledge; mathematization; epistemic culture; discourse; quantification; formalization; instrumentalism; cognition style; Soviet economy

JEL codes: A12, B41, C83, C90

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Publisher: Southern Federal University
Founder: Southern Federal University
ISSN: 2073-6606