Bourgeois Knowledge: The Incomplete Closure Of the Epistemological Break In the Work of Deirdre McCloskey

Forthcoming in Schmoller's Jahrbuch

19 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2021

See all articles by Erwin Dekker

Erwin Dekker

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR)

Pavel Kuchař

Palacký University Olomouc

Date Written: November 19, 2020


One of the defining features of much of modern social science and economics, in particular, is the hard break it posits between everyday and scientific knowledge. French philosophers have called this feature the epistemological break. One of the key consequences of this feature is that scientists have access to superior knowledge and are in a position to inform and steer the behavior of individuals. We believe that a large epistemological break is incompatible with science in a liberal democratic society. In this paper, we analyze the extent to which the writings of Deirdre McCloskey contributed to bridging the epistemological break given that her early work, and the work of some members of the younger Chicago School of economics more generally, was strongly influenced by the epistemological break. In the first decade after The Rhetoric of Economics McCloskey did much to strip scientific knowledge of its special elevated status. In her later work on the bourgeoisie, there is also a renewed appreciation for everyday knowledge of economic actors. Yet, important tensions remain, the appreciation for bourgeois knowledge has not been generalized to an appreciation for all everyday economic knowledge. And the tension between the economist as a teacher, and the economist as a student of society, already present in the Chicago tradition is still visible.

Keywords: Epistemological Break, Deirdre McCloskey, Expert Knowledge, Everyday Knowledge, Bourgeoisie

Suggested Citation

Dekker, Erwin and Kuchař, Pavel, Bourgeois Knowledge: The Incomplete Closure Of the Epistemological Break In the Work of Deirdre McCloskey (November 19, 2020). Forthcoming in Schmoller's Jahrbuch, Available at SSRN:

Erwin Dekker (Contact Author)

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) ( email )

Burgemeester Oudlaan 50
3000 DR Rotterdam, Zuid-Holland 3062PA

Pavel Kuchař

Palacký University Olomouc ( email )

Křížkovského 513
Olomouc, Czech Republic 779 00
Czech Republic

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