Colin Tudge is a silly, silly man.

He thinks that evolutionary psychology is the wave of the economic future. Which might be written off as simply not having seen quite how spectacularly most of the evol psych stuff has failed so far. (My prediction: give it at least 30 years before evol psych produces real work.)

But then he drops this bomb:

Such thinking suggests that the Freudian and behaviourist psychology now applied to marketing and to the economy in general is too eccentric or crude by half.

I don’t know from marketing, but “the economy in general?” Studied with Freudian psychology? Good heavens, I hope not. I’m trying to imagine any of the economists I know talking about how the demand curve represents the drive to breastfeed… or worse! … and it’s just not a happy notion. But, perhaps, an entertaining one. In the comments: you give me some Freudian economic theory. Go!

(Also, I recommend everyone not read the last paragraph in the linked book review. Especially not philosophers. Or take a good stiff drink beforehand. You’ll need it. Just trust me.)

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3 Responses to “Colin Tudge is a silly, silly man.”

  1. Daniel S. Goldberg Says:

    Freud gets a raw deal. Sure, a lot of his stuff on sexuality was simply wrong, but so too was Aristotle’s stuff on slaves and women, and Kant’s on the role of the emotions in moral reasoning, and we still work on the latter two.

    I don’t know exactly what a Freudian economic theory would look like, but his emphasis on the deep role of mortal anxiety as a prime motivating factor in human behavior seems to suggest some promising directions. Also, I tend to think that the neurotic nature of many particular markets (health care?) and of actors within those markets might be helpful.

    I guess it is hard for me to see how the field of behaviorial economics could not bear strong Freudian influences, especially inasmuch as the field was born via a collaboration between psychologists and economists.

  2. FUG Says:

    Id = Adam Smith
    Super Ego = Karl Marx
    Ego = John Maynard Keynes

  3. Steve M. Says:

    I’d like to dissent, in part, from the sneering at evolutionary psychology. Most arguments that some psychological trait is best explained in such-and-such need in the ancestral evolutionary environment, especially arguments made in the popular literature, do fail. And frequently because authors falsely clothe their preferences with the authority of science. Someone wants to say that some gender role is “natural,” and, wouldn’t you know it, it clearly arose through sexual selection.

    But surely a great many psychological traits really do have Darwinian explanations, and all the basic psychological traits are, at the very least, not inconsistent with our having evolved when and as we did. The trouble is that, as I understand it, the ev. psych. literature has provided good explanations at only a very high level of generality. Reciprocal altruism is real, &c. We don’t, however, get rigorous explanations of very specific traits. The problem isn’t that we don’t have any results, but that the results we have aren’t the kind of thing you’d want to rely on in a discussion of political or social issues. And, of course, most people aren’t at all careful about standards of proof, and will make wildly implausible claims to dress up their existing beliefs.

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