While I anticipated that I’d disagree with her on many issues (and I did), while reflecting in McCloskey’s arguments I found it hard to articulate my gut reaction to her until I connected it with some of Gramsci’s discussion about ideology. In “Hegemony, Relations of Force, Historical Bloc,” he writes that “one must therefore distinguish between historically organic ideologies, those, that is, which are necessary to a given structure, and ideologies that are arbitrary, rationalist, ‘willed’ (199). In much simpler terms, I believe Gramsci is saying that some ideologies articulate or arise from reality, and others manipulate the interpretation of reality. And my reaction to McCloskey is that she manipulates rather than articulates.
This is just one example. Among the many points on which I disagree with McCloskey were her egregious statements regarding the environment. The first of those arguments was that there are things we can fix. Well, maybe not. Maybe we’ve passed the tipping point on climate change, among many other things. A cursory review of scientific evidence would likely refute her claim. The other, which she describes as “things we can’t do anything about,” referred to the extinction of species, that it was related to globalization and the “Pangea effect” in that we are all becoming one large continent and species (like Kudzu) will dominate (and extinguish) another. I remain incredulous. Again, scientific investigation would most likely refute this. Her oversimplification of issues in making these broad claims brought everything she said into question. Eliminate the green tape and “innovation” will take care of the rest? Is she in denial or is she trying to sell it to us?
It seems to me that McCloskey’s writing and speaking are the “elucubration of a particular individual.” Arbitrary, rationalist and willed, indeed.