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ISSN (print) 1136-0593 · ISSN (online) 2445-4192

Uncertainty in economics: the heritage of G.L.S. Shackle

George J. Klir. Binghamton University


For long time, the mainstream economics has been characterized, on the one hand, by a sequence of axio-matic systems of increasing precision and mathematical sophis-tication and, on the other hand, a persistent gap between economic reality and predictions derived from these ever more sophisticated systems. To alleviate this undesirable situation, economics needs a major reorientation. In particular, it needs: (i) to broaden its narrow boun-daries to include psychological, political, legal, ecological, and other aspects that are relevant, but are outside the self-imposed confines of orthodox economic theories; and (ii) to utilize the various uncertainty theories that emerged during the second half of the 20th century. The purpose of this article is to show that both these needs are addres-sed by a highly original, unorthodox theory of human affairs bearing upon economics that was conceived and developed by George Shackle, a British economist and philosopher. The main focus in the article is on Shackle's use of uncertainty, in particular his pioneering introduction of the general concept of possibility into his theory. It is argued that Shackle's theory could be enriched by using results emerging from recent research on the broad concept of uncertainty.


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