Define neoclassicism | Dictionary and Thesaurus
Timothy Dykstal, in his examination of the work of female neoclassical authors Sarah Fielding and Jane Collier, defines Neoclassicism as the adoption of Classical techniques and values in an effort to critique contemporary behaviors. In "What Indeed Was Neoclassicism?" Donald Greene counters Johnson, dismissing his ideas as "tedious pseudo-problems, better left for journalists—and professors of literature—to play with if it amuses them."
There is nothing more frustrating for critics of neoclassical economics than the argument that neoclassical economics is a figment of their imagination; that, simply, there is scientific economics and there is speculative hand-waiving (by those who have never really grasped the finer points of mainstream economic theory). In this sense, neoclassicism resembles racism: while ever present and dominant, no one claims to be guided by it. Critics must find a clear definition of neoclassicism if only in order to liberate neoclassical economists from the temptation to barricade themselves behind infantile arguments viz. the non-existence of their school of thought. Then, the good debate may begin.
In this chapter, we offer a definition of neoclassical economics which turns on three crucial axioms and which, in conjunction with one another, as we shall claim, underpin (and ) neoclassical theory.1Later, we argue that these very axioms are simultaneously responsible for: (a) the difficulty mainstream economics faces when it comes to illuminating economic and social reality, and (b) the discursive success of neoclassical economics which gives it an effective (politically driven) stranglehold over alternative modes of economic reasoning. Once upon a time, it could be argued that neoclassical economics is typified by a familiar melange of theoretical practices: positing an equilibrium in the labour market, the habitual recourse to Say’s Law, the assumption that the interest rate will adjust automatically so as to equalise investment and savings, the depiction of capitalist growth Robert and company, the imposition of Cobb- or production and utility functions etc. Nowadays, any attempt to define neoclassicism by reference to these practices is music to the neoclassical ear: For there is an endless list of mainstream models which distance themselves from some, if not all, of the above. One of two conclusions appear in front of us: Either the mainstream has moved on from neoclassicism (as neoclassical economists claim) or the definition of neoclassicism needs to be re-thought and abstracted from a list of neoclassical practices like the one above. We choose and latter. So, the remainder of this chapter concentrates primarily on the three axioms which we think lie at the heart of neoclassical economic theory, old and new alike. In this sense, our axiomatic definition of neoclassicism, rather than being an idle methodological exercise, aims at exposing the root-cause of mainstream economics’ failure to say much that is helpful about the contemporary economic world. And it throws useful light on the reasons why such failure, instead of weakening neoclassicism, has reinforced its hold over the imagination of both the elites and the public at large. However, this is a longer argument which we shall only touch upon here (see and , 2005, for more). The boundaries defining the neoclassical genre have been tested, questioned, and found wanting by many literary critics. Equally troublesome to many of these critics is the notion that a literary canon can be categorized strictly on the basis of what is a largely accepted, though narrowly focused. In the late 1960s, James William Johnson considered this idea in his work "What Was Neoclassicism." He was chiefly concerned with what he identified as a vast range of literature widely ignored in favor of a "limited, prejudged selection of Restoration and 18th Century literature."