Metaphors and time reversibility and irreversibility in economic systems

Journal of Economic Methodology 2 (1):123-134 (1995)
Abstract
This paper deals with the way metaphors carried over from physical or biological systems condition the analysis of economic systems. The metaphors drawn from Newtonian mechanics, or from conservative fields of force, by neoclassical economists are discussed. Alternative metaphors which involve non-homeostasis and time irreversible processes are then outlined. Particular attention is paid to thermodynamics, evolutionary biology, and non-conservative or hysteretic force fields as sources of such metaphors. It is argued that these metaphors provide illumination to aspects of economic systems which are not consistent with the homeostatic, time reversible metaphors conventionally employed in economics.
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