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The missing piece in E. Cassirer’s theory of symbolic forms: the economy


Steineck, Raji C; Blind, Georg (2020). The missing piece in E. Cassirer’s theory of symbolic forms: the economy. Evolutionary and Institutional Economics Review:Epub ahead of print.

Abstract

Ernst Cassirer’s Philosophy of Symbolic Forms (PSF) primarily reflects on culture as a system of normative domains that are path-dependently configured. PSF elaborates on the domains of myth/religion, language, and science, but misses a discussion of the economy. By sketching a corresponding exposition, we contribute to the ongoing discussion of how economic science may investigate the world beyond utility functions. Our argument proceeds along historical and comparative lines with a ‘reciprocal comparison’ of the medieval economies of Europe and Japan. We thus approach the normative essence of economic thought and behaviour and test its variability in socio-cultural contexts diverging from ‘now’ and ‘here’. Our sketch of the economy as a symbolic form has important implications for the theoretical understanding of change in social systems. We argue that existing factors of change recognised in the economics discipline, such as fluctuations in supply and demand, and institutional innovation, critically require a superposition with patterns of cognition as they guide agents in their grasp of economic problems and, consequently, in their responses that shape material economies. We suggest that conceiving of the economy as a symbolic form makes these patterns of cognition accessible.

Abstract

Ernst Cassirer’s Philosophy of Symbolic Forms (PSF) primarily reflects on culture as a system of normative domains that are path-dependently configured. PSF elaborates on the domains of myth/religion, language, and science, but misses a discussion of the economy. By sketching a corresponding exposition, we contribute to the ongoing discussion of how economic science may investigate the world beyond utility functions. Our argument proceeds along historical and comparative lines with a ‘reciprocal comparison’ of the medieval economies of Europe and Japan. We thus approach the normative essence of economic thought and behaviour and test its variability in socio-cultural contexts diverging from ‘now’ and ‘here’. Our sketch of the economy as a symbolic form has important implications for the theoretical understanding of change in social systems. We argue that existing factors of change recognised in the economics discipline, such as fluctuations in supply and demand, and institutional innovation, critically require a superposition with patterns of cognition as they guide agents in their grasp of economic problems and, consequently, in their responses that shape material economies. We suggest that conceiving of the economy as a symbolic form makes these patterns of cognition accessible.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:100 Philosophy
330 Economics
Language:English
Date:2020
Deposited On:26 Nov 2020 13:59
Last Modified:28 Nov 2020 19:16
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:1349-4961
OA Status:Hybrid
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s40844-020-00191-0

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