Heterodox Economics, Social Ethics, and Inequalities

New Tools for Thinking Critically about Markets and Economic Injustices

Originally published in Journal of Religious Ethics

Research in the cognitive sciences indicates that metaphors significantly shape perceptions and approaches to problem solving. With this in mind, this essay argues that it is problematic for ethicists that mainstream economics and other social scientific literature relies on naturalistic metaphors to describe markets. These imply an inaccurate picture of economic phenomena and rhetorically frame many solutions to problems such as inequality as interventionist. This essay proposes that religious ethicists may find resources for avoiding this conceptual hazard in emerging fields of heterodox economics that are attentive to the role of culture and human agency in shaping markets. It introduces feminist, behavioral, institutional, and Austrian economics in particular and highlights some of the specific approaches to inequality adopted in these fields. It then suggests that engaging heterodox perspectives more generally may help ethicists keep in view the full complexity and social nature of the economic problems they analyze.


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