Very interesting discussion on “obscurantism” is social sciences. I can’t tell which kind of obscurantism is more popular in economics in France. One reason for that might be that we definitely have a strong ‘hard obscurantism’ tradition with our economic engineers, also many strands of ‘soft obscurantisms’ that are quite popular, but most of all we have a lot of soft obscurantism fueling hard obscurantism research.

Organizations and Markets

| Lasse Lien |

I recently attended a presentation by the great social scientist Jon Elster, in which he lamented the state of affairs in social science. Elster has – quite nicely, IMHO – coined the terms hard and soft obscurantism as the main problems. To Elster, obscurantism generally refers to endeavors that are unlikely to produce anything of value, and where this can be predicted in advance. This in contrast to more honorable failures, where a plausible hypothesis turns out to be wrong, leaving much effort without much value.

Soft obscurantism is exactly what it sounds like. Unfalsifiable, impenetrable theories which often proudly ignores standards for argument and evidence that elsewhere constitute the hallmark of the scientific method. Examples are post modernism (Latour), structuralism (Lévi-Strauss), Functionalism (Bourdieu, Foucault), Marxism (Badiou) and psychoanalysis.

But there is a ditch on the other side of the road too. Hard obscurantism refers to…

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