The Economics of Science: A Critical Realist Overview
Volume 2: Towards a Synthesis of Political Economy and Science and Technology Studies
Published November 21st 2011 by Routledge – 218 pages
Series: Ontological Explorations
Dramatic and controversial changes in the funding of science over the past two decades, towards its increasing commercialization, have stimulated a huge literature trying to set out an "economics of science". Whether broadly in favour or against these changes, the vast majority of these frameworks employ ahistorical analyses that cannot conceptualise, let alone address, the questions of "why have these changes occurred?" and "why now?" Nor, therefore, can they offer much insight into the crucial question of future trends. Given the growing importance of science and innovation in an age of both a globalizing knowledge-based economy (itself in crisis) and enormous challenges that demand scientific and technological responses, these are significant gaps in our understanding of important contemporary social processes.
This book argues that the fundamental underlying problem in all cases is the ontological shallowness of these theories, which can only be remedied by attention to ontological presuppositions. Conversely, a critical realist approach affords the integration of a realist political economy into the analysis of the economics of science that does afford explicit attention to these crucial questions; a ‘cultural political economy of research and innovation’ (CPERI). Accordingly, the book sets out an introduction to the existing literature on the economics of science together with novel discussion of the field from a critical realist perspective. In arguing thus across levels of abstraction, however, the book also explores how concerted engagement with substantive social enquiry and theoretical debate develops and strengthens critical realism as a philosophical project, rather than simply ‘applying’ it.
While the first of these two volumes argues how mainstream economics is inadequate to the task of an explanatory and critical ‘economics of science’, the challenge in this second volume is to examine the strengths and weaknesses of disciplines offering more promising starting points. Two social scientific disciplines are particularly promising candidates, starting from ‘economy’ or ‘science’, namely heterodox political economy and science & technology studies respectively. Synthesising these into an ‘economics of science’, however, still encounters considerable hurdles, in that there remain some fundamental and mutual philosophical incompatibilities. Formulating an ‘economics of science’ thus demands that both ‘economics’ and ‘science’ be redefined. The book explores how a critical realist approach affords some common ground upon which this productive synthesis may be pursued, in the form of a cultural political economy of research and innovation (CPERI).
Section IV - STS and Political Economy – Philosophical Barriers, Substantive Insights
Introduction, Chapter 9 - From SSK to ESK? Philosophical Objections to 1st Wave SSK, Chapter 10 - Second Wave STS and the Economics of Science, Chapter 11 - STS on the Economics of Science
Section V - From the Economics of Innovation to Cultural Political Economy
Introduction, Chapter 12 - The Capital Relation and the Real Structure of the Global Capitalist Economy, Chapter 13 - Cycles of Global Expansion and Technical Change, Chapter 14 - The Evolutionary Economics of Innovation, Chapter 15 - Assessing the Explanatory Power of the Economics of Technological Change, Chapter 16 - Cultural Political Economy and the Performativity Turn.
Section VI - Conclusion
Chapter 17 - Conclusion: The Cosmo-Politics of CPERI
David Tyfield is a lecturer at the Centre for Mobilities Research and Sociology Department, Lancaster University. He is reviews editor of Science as Culture and formerly an editor of the Journal of Critical Realism.