Georgescu-Roegen’s methodology is ambiguous

We analyze the original time approach of Georgescu-Roegen. Our main argument is that, to Georgescu-Roegen, time in economics is a plurichromatic concept. While recognizing both logical and historical time, he defended historical time from an open-system and dialectic perspective. Historical time is the only concept compatible with thermodynamic laws, especially the entropy law. It also leaves space for all historical events and human activities in their living environment which is the biosphere. Georgescu-Roegen developed an original approach of time that reconciles natural and social sciences in an evolutionary framework. Time is the stream of conscioussness, an unidirectional flow that drives irrevocable changes.

According to this methodology, the analytical simile performs two functions.
First, it enables to check the logical consistency of dialectical reasoning, because
of the rigour with which arithmomorphic concepts can be manipulated. This can
especially be used to check for errors or validate theories of economists who reasoned
only dialectically. Second, it is assumed to facilitate understanding, because of the
simplicity with which it enables to follow deductive reasoning. Hence, the logic of the
three step process above is that we loose in realism what we gain in understanding
and logical consistency as we go along it, which best fits the idea of modelling as
theorising developed in the philosophical literature on economic models. However,
Georgescu-Roegen denies that a model can provide a tool to test the validity of the
theory as a representation of reality. Contrary to the instrumentalist methodology,
he believes that social sciences do not have objective standards of accuracy, such
as those provided by measuring instruments in physics. He especially criticises
the relevance of statistical tests in economics, which he considers as mathematical
artifices. And finally, with respect to the idea of models as investigative instruments,
Georgescu-Roegen’s methodology is ambiguous. In particular, it is not clear whether
or not it can be used for conceptual exploration, for instance by categorising and
examining the features of specific configurations.
This kind of ambiguity is in fact one of the motivations for the second line of
inquiry developed in this paper, which consists in confronting the construction of
Georgescu-Roegen’s flow-fund model of production, his most developed analytical
contribution after the 1970s, with the methodology outlined above. Indeed, this part
explores the issue in two ways simultaneously: from methodology to practice, and
back. On the one hand, the above interpretation of Georgescu-Roegen’s philosophy
is used as a reading grid to make sense of the process by which he builds his theory of
production. On the other hand, this process of theory-making gives the opportunity
to learn about his methodology through the practice, revealing both it limits as a
practical guide and complementary implicit principles.
This approach happens to be quite fruitful. To start with, it shows that the
structure of the flow-fund theory of production can be interpreted in a very con-
sistent way with respect to the methodology, while highlighting some new features
of the latter. More precisely, the foundations of the theory rest on the concepts of
“process”, “boundary”, “flows” and “funds”. However, where Georgescu-Roegen’s
insist sometimes a lot on their analytical facet, I suggest that they are first and
foremost idealisations based on an intuitive understanding of reality. The steps of
isolation in turn appears when it comes to setting apart the qualitative change of
funds in the process, and later to adopt a simplified representation of the multipro-
cess which puts aside the initial functional approach. In return, this teaches us that
this step of the methodology is intimately linked with the kind of problem the model
is designed to deal with, which goes here from the issue of internal organisation of
processes to that of interrelations between processes.

Shoaib Habib Memon

Mr. Shoaib Habib Memon MA LLB is Global Goodwill Ambassador Pakistan, humanitarian,Social Worker,Development Professional

Shoaib Habib Memon has 9 posts and counting. See all posts by Shoaib Habib Memon

Shoaib Habib Memon

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