Comments: “Post-autistic” economics: what a dreadful label


1. Autistic Exchange and Interpersonal Exchange
Action always is essentially the exchange of one state of affairs for another state of affairs. If the action is performed by an individual without any reference to cooperation with other individuals, we may call it autistic exchange. An instance: the isolated hunter who kills an animal for his own consumption; he exchanges leisure and a cartridge for food.

Within society cooperation substitutes interpersonal or social exchange for autistic exchanges. Man gives to other men in order to receive from them. Mutuality emerges. Man serves in order to be served.


Regards, Don

Posted by Don Lloyd at March 2, 2006 09:21 PM

Well, my professor, who's an Institutionalist, found it pretty amusing. As a neoclassical, it doesn't bother me that much.

Posted by Robert Prather at March 3, 2006 12:11 AM

My Webster's unabridged gives two definitions for "autism."

1.(psychiatry) a pervasive developmental disorder of children, characterized by impaired communication, excessive rigidity, and emotional detachment.
2. a tendency to view life in terms of one's own needs and desires.

If these definitions are correct, Don's quote of HA shows that Mises uses the word "autistic" in accord with its exact meaning (no surprise). A synonym for "autistic" might therefore be "atomistic," which is more commonly used in criticizing neoclassical economics. So we could read the term Post-Autistic Economics to mean, equivalently, Post-Atomistic Economics.

I don't know a lot about autism the condition, but it's more than developmental and involves more than inward sociability. Perhaps it was the psychiatrists who first misused (misapplied) the word.


Posted by Ed at March 3, 2006 02:08 PM

I would say that the second Webster definition cited by Ed, which corresponds more or less to Mises' use, is now archaic -- at least in English. Perhaps in French, where the PAE movement started, "autisme" still means something like "atomistic" or "intra-personal" or "self-centered". Whoever translated it into English should have recognized that autism is now standardly used in English to designate the neurological disorder. I would have no objection if they called the movement "post-atomistic" economics. My impression, though, is that the movement objects not to methodological individualism so much as the profession's focus on technical questions of interest only to economists.

Posted by Lawrence H. White at March 3, 2006 04:00 PM