Throughout his career, Jacob Marschak repeatedly pointed out that since the rationality and efficiency concepts on which conomics is built are intrinsically normative, economics is primarily a normative science. His use of the term ‘normative’ was certainly not akin to the one found in the “Methodology of Positive Economics” by colleague –and adversary- Milton Friedman. Nor does it reflect the definition given by my fellow historians confronted with the positive/normative distinction. Nor does it fit the framework with which I try to make sense of his life and work.
All the same for his idea of “planning.” And several other notions. My work is overcrowded with these irreconciliable –historically or logically- conceptual frameworks.
“You have the power, you impose your own framework on your story”, I was advised when the issue was discussed during my defense. But if I force an economist’s vision in my own frame, I feel that I am destroying his integrity, that I am caricaturing the subtle, ramified and often frail and shaded structure of his scientific thinking. And if I let my characters speak on their own, I end up with a collection of locked-in minds incapable of communicating with each other, that I hopelessly watch from my own conceptual prison without being able to grasp.
Any suggestion? Any exemple of historical accounts where the issue is well handled?