Meaning Construction and the Socialisation of Economic Ideas : An Autobiographical Approach

Tobias Pforr

University of Warwick Publications Services. Sep 2015 [Link]

Supervisors: Matthew Watson (Univ. of Warwick) & Sebastiano Maffettone (LUISS)


This dissertation explores how to conceptualise the production, reproduction and transmission of economic ideas. I highlight that a first step in such an exploration needs to consist in the recognition that theory and ideas not only describe reality but also help to constitute it. Language inherently frames our understanding in particular ways. We learn language, as well as other practices, by being socialised into particular communities. As a result, there is an inherent connection between our ideas and our identity. The task for this dissertation is to showcase different ways of understanding how we become socialised into particular economic ideas and what some of the consequences of this might be for how we think about economic theory in general. I examine two particular sites of knowledge production and two particular concepts. The two chosen sites are undergraduate economics textbooks and contemporary novels. I highlight that both partake in the production and transmission of economic ideas but that the strategies they employ to do so are markedly different. Economics teaching could benefit from using a greater variety of materials and I suggest that works of fiction are a very useful resource in this regard. The two concepts I examine are the concept of the market and the concept of violence. I argue that the concept of the market is not merely used to describe a place of exchange but that it is also used to express subjective and social notions. Last, I argue that much can be gained from following Johan Galtung's approach to violence. His conceptualisation of violence allows one to understand the price of socialisation. Socialisation processes are inherently burdensome for individuals and the concept of violence can help one to appreciate the burden which particular conceptions of human agency have for those who are asked to internalise these.

This project receives funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No 722826.