Cover

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Frontmatter

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Contents

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pp. vii-x

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Preface to the Second Edition

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pp. xi-xiv

Why in 1985 did I write The Rhetoric of Economics? It was an odd book. An economic historian decides in the early 1980s to learn a little about philosophy, linguistics, literary criticism, the history of science, and other pieces of the literary culture. An odd thing to do. ...

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Acknoledgments for the First Edition

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pp. xv-xviii

The germ of the book was presented as a talk to the old program in Politics, Economics, Rhetoric, and Law as I left the University of Chicago in 1979-1980. Wayne Booth asked me to talk on "The Rhetoric of Economics," and I said, "Sure. Glad to. Uh ... What is it?" ...

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Exordium

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pp. xix-xxi

If translated into English, most of the ways economists talk among themselves would sound plausible enough to poets, journalists businesspeople, and other thoughtful though noneconomical folk. Like serious talk anywhere—among clothing designers and baseball fans, say—the talk is hard to follow ...

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1 How to do a Rhetorical Analysis of Economics, and Why

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pp. 3-19

The argument is carried in part by the equivocal use of economic vocabulary. "Allocate," "maximize," "value," and "scarcity" are technical words in economics, with precise definitions. Here they are used also in wider senses, to evoke Scientific power, to claim precision without necessarily using it. ...

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2 The Literary Character of Economic Science

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pp. 20-34

The French and German triads that correspond to our plain English "natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities" are "les sciences naturelles, les sciences sociales, et les sciences humaines" and "die Naturwissenschaften, die Sozialwissenschaften, und die Geisteswissenschaften." ...

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3 Figures of Economic Speech

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pp. 35-51

Obscured by the official rhetoric, the workaday rhetoric of economics has not received the attention it deserves. Knowledge of it is therefore hidden in seminar traditions, advice to assistant professors, referee reports, and jokes. Economists can do better if they will look at their arguments. ...

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4 The Rhetoric of Scientism: How John Muth Persuades

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pp. 52-73

Consider another example in detail, less charming than Solow's but as important. In 1961 John Muth published a paper in Econometrica (the leading journal of statistical and mathematical economics, and the very embodiment of modernism in economics) entitled "Rational Expectations and the Theory of Price Movements." ...

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5 The Problem of Audence in Historical Economics: Robert Fogel As Rhetor

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pp. 74-86

Classically and properly, to repeat, rhetoric is critical inquiry, not merely "giving effectiveness to truth but ... creating truth" (Scott 1967, p. 9). The writing of history has a rhetoric (Hexter 1971; White 1973; Novick 1988), no small matter: it limits the historian in what sorts of evidence ...

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6 The Lawyerly Rhetoric of Coase's "The Nature of the Firm"

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pp. 87-99

An author, twenty-seven years old in 1937, of an essay called imposingly "The Nature of the Firm," an author who had not published a line when he drafted the article (early summer 1934; see Coase 1988c, p. 19; it was based closely on a lecture he gave in October 1932, at age twenty-one), ...

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7 The Unexamined Rhetoric of Economic Quantification

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pp. 100-111

Even in the most narrowly technical matters economists have shared convictions about what makes an argument strong, convictions which they have not examined, which they can communicate to graduate students only tacitly, and which contain embarrassments to the official rhetoric. ...

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8 The Rhetioric of Significance Tests

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pp. 112-138

Econometrics in particular has made a tragic mistake by not facing its rhetoric of importance. The tragic mistake is to turn back to statistics itself to answer the question whether the deviations from purchasing power parity are important. It makes the statistical machinery into something that takes care ...

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9 The Poverty of Economic Modernism

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pp. 139-155

The economic conversation has heard much eloquent talk, but its most eloquent passages have been mathematical. Especially since the 1940s economists of all schools have become enchanted by the new and scientific way of talking. Most journals of economics nowadays look like journals of applied mathematics ...

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10 From Methodoloy to Rhetoric

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pp. 156-167

The greater objection to modernism in economics, though, is that modernism supports a rule-bound methodology. It claims to deduce laws for science from the essence of knowledge or a rational reconstruction of the history of science. It claims that the philosopher of science can tell what makes for good, ...

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11 Anti-Anti-Rhetoric

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pp. 168-186

It will I hope be plausible by now that the "objectivity" of economics is exaggerated and, what is more important, overrated. The studies of rhetoric show, as Polanyi put it (1966, p. 62), that economic knowledge depends little on "a scientific rationalism that would permit us to believe only explicit statements ...

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12 Since Rhetoric: Prospects for a Scientific Economics

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pp. 187-194

No. Most economists have reckoned from the title of the book that Aunt Deirdre "advocates" rhetoric, as "against" mathematics. Or else maybe she is ripping aside a veil, showing economics to be Not Science, Merely Literature. Or maybe she's just nuts. After all, in 1995 we got another piece of evidence " ...

Bibliography

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pp. 195-218

Index

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pp. 219-223