Over on the admirable Unlearning Economics blog there is a discussion on finding a new unifying Principle for Economics. I put in my 2p worth a few days ago, and it got a kindly pat on the head, but now they have started talking about Freud and Marx, and I commented:
I am a (retired) psychiatrist, and I know a little about Freud. He had some valid ideas, chiefly on ego defence mechanisms such as denial, projection &c. He also had a "unifying theory" about the psyche which would nowadays be classified in psychiatric terms as an over valued idea. His therapeutic approach, psychoanalysis, has more in common with literary criticism or religion than science.
So it depresses me somewhat to hear economists talking about being a Freudian or a Marxian. These are concepts derived from theology and philosophy rather than from science. Any one scholarly wo/man may contribute both insights and misconceptions to the system under study. No single individual deserves to be "followed". Individuals may (or may not) merit study, but it is the system, the factors and their interactions, that is the correct object of study, not the people who have written about the system, no matter how clever or influential they were.
Just as if you came to me with PTSD, you would want to know what I can do in order to relieve you of it, and would not want to listen to an hour of waffle about Oedipus Rex, so I as an outsider want to know what you economists are going to advise in order to bring about an economic transition to sustainability and equality. I do not want to know whether or not you believe Freud would beat Marx in a fist fight.
Sorry if this sounds blunt, I respect you all really, but time is short. We have an insane Government here in the UK carrying out a chainsaw attack on the national economy in the name of dealing with the deficit caused by an insane system of creating money, money is haemorrhaging out of nation states into tax havens, the rich are getting ever richer while the poor are getting ever poorer, there are empty houses alongside homeless families, food banks alongside obesity, a million unemployed while there are a million constructive jobs left undone. These are economic problems. Please address them, and in doing so you may well find your unifying principle.