This notion is applied here to the rocket-like rise in premarital sex that occurred over the last century…This is traced here to the dramatic decline in the expected cost of premarital sex, due technological improvement in contraceptives and their increased availability.
Of course, Greenwood is by no means unusual in doing this. Ever since Gary Becker’s pioneering work (pdf), mainstream economists have shown how the mode of production - technology and people’s perceived costs and benefits - affects social life, such as crime, family structure or obesity. In Marxian terms, “base” does influence “superstructure.”
This, though, is not the only point of convergence between orthodox and Marxist economics. The basic premise of neoclassical economics, that people respond to incentives, echoes the Marxian notion that individuals are bearers of social relations. Both stress that an individual’s behaviour arises from the position he finds himself in - which influences the costs and benefits he perceives - more than from his character. Of course, both views can be pushed too far. But both remind us not to see human action as rising from mere idiosyncratic disposition.
There’s a further point of convergence - economic history. Marx said that technology shapes property rights and hence class relations:
So far, I’ve considered the convergence between neoclassical economics and Marxists. But there’s an important convergence between Marx and behavioural economics. Marxists believe that false consciousness can bamboozle workers into accepting capitalism. If we want to know how this happens, the cognitive biases and heuristics programme helps us. For example, the fundamental attribution error leads us over-estimate the extent to which the poor are to blame for their poverty, and to under-rate the importance of environmental or societal forces. The availability heuristic leads workers to blame immigrants for unemployment rather than less obvious forces. The just world phenomenon and system justification cause us to believe that capitalism must be fair. The status quo bias causes us to accept existing evils rather than risk new ones. And adaptive preferences (pdf) cause the poor to resign themselves to their fates and want less, with the result that capitalist democracy sustains inequality.
Of course, both Marxists and mainstream economists will reject all this, and come up with endless guff about “methodology” to explain why they really really hate each other, and would prefer to languish in their little intellectual ghettos.
But the fact is that they do converge upon many important points. And you know why? Because both see the truth.