There are many more economists in the public sphere than sociologists. The president has a Council of Economic Advisers, but no Council of Sociological Advisers. Every presidential candidate has an economic team, but you never hear about a sociology team. There are government-run institutions like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Federal Reserve banks staffed with Ph.D. economists, but no such brain-trusts of sociologists.
In the media, economists such as Paul Krugman, my Bloomberg View colleague Tyler Cowen and others command large audiences and great intellectual respect. Nor are they unusual -- many economists blog, or write for important news outlets. As for sociologists, though a few do interact with the public -- for example, Tressie McMillan Cottom of Virginia Commonwealth University or Fabio Rojas of Indiana University-Bloomington -- most remain in the ivory tower.
That’s a shame, because, as Bloomberg reporter Brendan Greeley recently pointed out, more and more of America’s problems look sociological rather than economic.It's a terrible mistake to see all issues as chiefly or exclusively economic, either in origin or solution.
What is a required is a system approach that is both trans-disciplinary (inclusive) and also meta-disciplinary (integrative). Economist Kenneth Boulding got this, for example, as did E. F. Schumacher. Karl Marx got it, too.
Here is what John Maynard Keynes had to say about it:
The study of economics does not seem to require any specialized gifts of an unusually high order. Is it not, intellectually regarded, a very easy subject compared with the higher branches of philosophy or pure science? An easy subject at which few excel! The paradox finds its explanation, perhaps, in that the master-economist must possess a rare combination of gifts. He must be mathematician, historian, statesman, philosopher—in some degree. He must understand symbols and speak in words. He must contemplate the particular in terms of the general and touch abstract and concrete in the same flight of thought. He must study the present in the light of the past for the purposes of the future. No part of man’s nature or his institutions must lie entirely outside his regard. He must be purposeful and disinterested in a simultaneous mood; as aloof and incorruptible as an artist, yet sometimes as near to earth as a politician. — J. M. Keynes "Alfred Marshall, 1842-1924" The Economic Journal, (Sept.,1924), 321-322This goes not only for policy but also education. The disciplinary approach reflects the disjointed approach of methodological individualism that is fundamental to neoclassical based economics and the neoliberal political theory based on it. It's literally killing us.
Calling All Sociologists: America Needs You