Mainstream economic concepts and tools are valuable and well worth knowing, but they also contain implicit biases. The most fundamental of these is the assumption that individuals are connected to one another almost exclusively through markets—that the essential aspects of the economy can be understood by employing models that incarnate this assumption, relaxing it in only a few narrow instances. What are the connections that are left out or radically downplayed? Culture, politics, language, environment: the relationships between people, and between them and their material world, that are the objects of study in such fields as sociology, politics, organization theory, social psychology, anthropology, geography and so on. The problem is ... assuming that economic interactions can be studied apart from all the others leaves power and culture out of the equation.I'm pretty much on Dorman's team here but it is worthwhile to remember that this is just a shadow in a far more tumultuous debate about "economic man" or, more grandly, "methodological individualism" or (as it is understood in some circles) "liberalism." I can't put my hands on a copy just now but I think I'm quoting Alisdair MacIntyre correctly when I offer his (yes?) critique of the ethics of the British empiricists: first they ask "who am I?" And then they ask "what shall I do?" But they forget that you can't uncouple the second question from the first. We are what we do and our identity or sense of self-worth (if not else) is bound up with our notion of what we consider worthy/unworthy of ourselves. It was central to the work of the law school radicals of the 70s (Duncan Kennedy, Mark Kelman, Roberto Unger) who kept telling us that liberalism left us all as impenetrable billiard balls, banging into each other with incomprehension. Hegel put it more succinctly (!!) when he said that Benthamism leaves each of us caged separately in a spiritual zoo.
I do think that economists (for the most part) just don't get it: they are still blinded by what MacIntyre might call the empiricist error. Don't know what it would take to break them out of their cage: the job is daunting precisely because so many of them don't comprehend that there is anything to be mistaken about. And I suppose the young people most drawn to the profession are the ones most likely to find themselves compatible with this point of view.