For the last few decades, considerable attention has been paid to the methodology of mainstream economics. It is not mere chance that economics is surrounded by methodological debates. If its relevance is at stake, this can be either refuted or proven most efficiently at a methodological level. Arguments for and against mainstream economics underline the methodological homogeneity of mainstream economics, while serious, though almost neglected, arguments can be found for a view according to which the long history of mainstream economics can be described as a sequence of methodological breaks. I argue, firstly, for a sharp demarcation by new classical macroeconomics from the Friedmanian instrumentalism and, secondly, for the realism of new classicals. I strive to identify the epistemological principles underlying Lucas’ models and to highlight the signs of that demarcation as well. I concentrate on the techniques by which new classicals could set their models into an indirect relationship with reality. It is also highlighted that the common terminology, according to which the assumptions of abstract economic models are uniformly regarded as “unrealistic”, actually refers to two different techniques. From these approaches, there is only one which can be justifiably labelled as realist.
This paper offers a few remarks on the so-called heterodoxy commentaries of recent times (e.g. Bod 2013, Csaba 2011). In accordance with the growing popularity of unusual economic policy actions, a set of “tools” is emerging that aims to exert its effects breaking with instrumental actions. Outlining a special framework of the history of mainstream economics, it will be argued that economic policy only gradually has become capable of applying this system. In our view, both the emergence of symbolic economic policies mentioned above and the rise of heterodoxy are on the same level, since certain governments can only operate through giving signals. Although it is not the time to formulate ultimate and eternal generalised statements, it may perhaps be stated that symbolic economic policies can make some room for manoeuvring available as a last resort. In other words, the possibility of a certain kind of economic policy “tools” can be derived from theoretical considerations, and this set has become highlighted recently by some constraining changes in the macroeconomic environment. Our theoretical framework will be filled sporadically with some episodes from the last few years of the economic policy of Hungary.