Over at Crooked Timber, Kieran Healy complains that
When you’re a Sociologist like me, and your field has no credibility, people just assume you’re stupid and don’t bother sending you their Final and Completely True Theory of X in the first place. On the other hand, it does invite people to assume the answer to any problem you are studying is simply obvious common sense.
But sociology is a victim of its own success here. All of the big insights of sociology, from its beginnings in the 19th century up to 1950s work like that of Erving Goffman are indeed common sense, not because they were already known, but because they have been incorporated into the intellectual baggage of everyone in Western societies, educated or not. No one, for example, would be accused of talking academic jargon if they raised the problem of “peer group pressure” at their local school, or made a reference to ‘social status’.
By contrast, almost nothing in economics has managed to become common sense. Something as basic as comparative advantage, a concept developed nearly 200 years ago, remains as counter-intuitive as quantum physics to most people. Opportunity cost also at least a century old, similarly requires years of intensive training before it becomes common sense rather than a memorised definition.
Yet it would be only a slight exaggeration to say that the basic analysis associated with these concepts is universally accepted by economists. Opponents of free trade would want to point out dangers in the uncritical use of comparative advantage as a guide to policy, and behavioral economists might observe that, in practice, people worry about sunk costs as well as, or instead of opportunity costs, but these qualifications do not affect the validity of the underlying analysis.