In my gradual process of trying to figure out what I am going to write when comparing Tarot Cards to Economics, it has become increasingly clear to me how the production function and preference relations of economics function (the primitives of an economic model) as “archetypes” for our discipline – and how many non-economists do not share these archetypes and as a result find it hard to translate what we are saying.
Now at first brush this seems strange – these relations are surely not archetypes, but are surely instead symbols. Why? Well a symbol in the view I’m using here is a “given” descriptive term without any complicated cultural relations getting in its way – so a production function is a primitive as production comes from inputs being translated into outputs, preference relations merely state that people have preferences.
These symbols are then tied together to fit archetypes/models of situations. We can then take these archetypes/models together in order to discuss or explain something in the real world. To me this is akin to the “Credible Worlds” view of economic models, or even the old school Mill view – we take these symbols/primitives and create models which capture some tendency in the real world. We then tie together these tendencies that are captured by models in order to provide policy conclusions.
This is the way I did see the process of economic model building.
But now I’ve moved the status of production functions et al to the area of archetype. From good old Wikipedia we have:
In Jung’s psychological framework, archetypes are innate, universal prototypes for ideas and may be used to interpret observations
The very idea of using a production function flavours the way economists interpret ideas and the way we understand phenomenon. Often when communicating we do not observe the production function, or have any idea of all the inputs into it – in this more limited way of viewing the process, the fact that we apply an implicit view of a production function to it is akin to the production function being an archetype in our description of what is going on. More importantly, the symbol of something like a production function becomes an archetype as it becomes accepted as a central part of the way economists communicate with each other – when we tell each other stories we ALWAYS have a production function in mind.
This matters as the fact we look at data and the world around us through the view of a production function and preference relations is probably the key difference between the way economists view phenomenon and the way non-economists interpret it.
Yes, the models that we build off of production functions et al are archetypes as well – but they of course rely on our prior assumptions about primitives (the production function). The model can itself be boiled down to these fundamental primitives – primitives that when not used in their most general form are in fact archetypes.
As a result, when it comes to explaining, justifying, communicating, or educating and economist requires a clear head when it comes to looking at these fundamental archetypes – and needs to be able to justify why these archetypes are appropriate for describing social phenomenon.
This is just where my head is at right now – if anyone has any comments or wants to correct me on anything that would be super.