The history of economic thought witnessed several prominent economists who took seriously models and concepts in physics for the elucidation and prediction of economic phenomena. Econophysics is an emerging discipline at the intersection of heterodox economics and the physics of complex systems, with practitioners typically engaged in two overlapping but distinct methodological programs. The first is to export mathematical methods used in physics for the purposes of studying economic phenomena. The second is to export mechanisms in physics into economics. A conclusion is drawn that physics transfer is often justified at the level of mathematical transfer but unjustified at the level of mechanistic transfer.
Thanks to the following for constructive feedback: Chris Atkinson, Joseph Berkovitz, Tim Cejka, John B. Davis, Jesse Hall, Julia Lücke, Soroush Marouzi, Michael E. Miller, Mark S. Peacock, Kate Tong, Tracy Wan, two anonymous referees, and audience members attending my talks at the 46th Annual History of Economics Society Meeting at Columbia University (Aug 2019), the 1st Winter Institute for the History of Economic Thought at Arizona State University (Jan 2020), and the 1st Philosophy of Physics Graduate Conference at the University of Oxford (Feb 2020). I thank the IHPST for funding and the University of Cambridge History & Philosophy of Science Department for an academic home where this paper was written.
Funding: University of Toronto (FAST Fellowship).
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