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Tijdschrift Erasmus Law Review x Jaar 2015 x

    Pragmatism has become an established academic topic focused on an accepted canon of works and a number of seminal authors. There is something ironic about this fixation of the Pragmatist tradition. An anticipation of transience and embrace of adaptability runs through many of the classic works of Pragmatism. Nevertheless, there seems to be a tendency to fixate Pragmatism and freeze it in its classic iterations, especially with respect to its philosophy of scientific inquiry. The article seeks to retrieve the dynamics and adaptability the classical Pragmatists built into their notion of scientific inquiry. It seeks to illustrate the need for such flexibility with recent developments in the field of economics. When the financial crisis struck in 2007-2008, this involved more than the insolvency of a number of large banks. The crisis, at the very least, also involved the bankruptcy of a dominant economic model. It raised questions about the rationality of markets and the widespread faith in soft-touch regulation. It cast doubt on decades of neo-classical economic dogma that counseled small government, privatisation, and free markets. Neo-classical economics did not float free from other concerns. It informed notions about the role of the state, the limits of public policy, and the scope of democratic decision-making. Indeed, faith in rational, self-correcting markets affected debates in disparate disciplines like law, political science, philosophy, ethics, and history in many non-trivial ways. Hence, the financial crisis is also a crisis of scientific research.


Wouter de Been
Wouter de Been is assistant professor at the Erasmus School of Law, the Netherlands.
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