Geoeconomics

A collection of anecdotes and maxims is the greatest treasure for a man of the world, if he is able to bring the former into conversation at well-chosen points, and to recall the latter on appropriate occasions.

– Goethe

In this chapter we present a particular literary tradition associated with the study of geopolitics, which we shall call the art of essentialism. The art of essentialism can be described as a realistic and succinct form of reporting a complex social fact by observing individual and/or national characteristics and actions, with particular emphasis on history and geography, and subjecting them to a process of synthesis.

Inspired by a recent article on the modern development of evolutionary and institutional economics (Hodgson 2007), what follows is an attempt to classify some of the main areas within what has been called evolutionary economics, and to say something about how economists, philosophers, and social scientists have influenced one another’s thinking.

In this chapter we define a place and scope for the study of geoeconomics. We have previously offered a number of definitions. Here we explore some of the major issues and concepts relevant for the study: the power dimension, systems of lies, its inter- and trans-disciplinary nature, its relationship with evolutionary theory, and differences from both neoclassical empiricism and relativism. The main purpose of this chapter is to show how geoeconomics can be founded in an evolutionary approach by offering an analysis of the development of the study of economics.

For the last few decades most economists have described competition using algebraic equations, convinced of the applicability of methods derived from the natural sciences and which assume an ideal world. Those interested in the practical issues, who have approached the problems from the perspective and methods of experience and practical reasoning, have mostly been frowned on.

The position of the academic establishment has been that if a piece of academic work cannot be modelled by the rules of the natural sciences, it is not worth attention. Anyone who does not publish an empirical data-set analysed using SPSS in one of the established peer-reviewed journals is not scientific.

The historical method has been largely discredited since the Second World War. Part of the reason is that people have been learning less history since then, so the phenomenon becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, a downward spiral. The disciplines of history and geography have been systematically neglected, in the USA and indeed in the West more generally, right up to university level.

If we knew more history, this would strengthen our ability to draw historical parallels, and thus to make more accurate predictions about future events. Instead it is often wrongly assumed that we know as much as there is to know about history. The field of economics suffers greatly as a consequence.

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