Economics and Liberating Theory
Unlike mainstream economists, political economists have always tried to situate the study of economics within the broader project of understanding how society functions. However, during the second half of the twentieth century dissatisfaction with the traditional political economy theory of social change known as historical materialism increased to the point where many modern political economists and social activists no longer espouse it, and most who still call themselves historical materialists have modified their theory considerably to accommodate insights about the importance of gender relations, race relations, and the “human factor” in understanding social stability and social change. The liberating theory presented briefly in this chapter attempts to transcend historical materialism without throwing out the baby with the bath water. It incorporates insights from feminism, national liberation and antiracist movements, and anarchism, as well as from mainstream psychology, sociology, and evolutionary biology where useful. Liberating theory attempts to understand the relationships between economic, political, kinship and cultural activities, and the forces behind social stability and social change, in a way that neither over nor underestimates the importance of economic dynamics, and neither over nor underestimates the importance of human agency compared to social forces.