Re: Mathematics and anthropology

Mark A. Nadler (mnadler@ASHLAND.EDU)
Tue, 25 Apr 1995 15:04:07 -0400

On Tue, 25 Apr 1995, Danny Yee wrote:

Does anyone know of any work in the social sciences which uses algebraic
topology, functional analysis, or category theory?
You might not consider neo-classical economics a social science but I'll
give it a go anyway. Everyone trained in neo-classical economics, which
is the dominant school of economic thought in the world today, must study
mathematics through optimization theory. This mostly amounts to two
years of calculus training. Many students of neo-classical theory have
training through difference and differential equations, set theory, and
topology. Some of the greatest proofs and insights in neo-classical theory
can only be appreciated if you are well trained in mathematics (e.g., proof of
Adam Smith's insight into the efficiency properties of a decentralized
capitalistic economy, and Arrow's Possibilty theorem).

It might be worth mentioning that many economists believe that their
"tribe" as gone overboard in the use of mathematical techniques.
For many economists, it's alot easier sitting on their a.. developing new
mathematically based social theories then actually going out
into a cold and messy world.


Mark A. Nadler Internet:
Ashland University Phone: (419) 289-5912
Ashland, OH 44805 Fax: (419) 289-5949