That is the title of a new paper (pdf) by Marion Fourcade, Etienne Ollion, and Yann Algan, here is the abstract:
In this essay, we investigate the dominant position of economics within the network of the social sciences in the United States. We begin by documenting the relative insularity of economics, using bibliometric data. Next we analyze the tight management of the field from the top down, which gives economics its characteristic hierarchical structure. Economists also distinguish themselves from other social scientists through their much better material situation (many teach in business schools, have external consulting activities), their more individualist worldviews, and in the confidence they have in their discipline’s ability to fix the world’s problems. Taken together, these traits constitute what we call the superiority of economists, where economists’ objective supremacy is intimately linked with their subjective sense of authority and entitlement. While this superiority has certainly fueled economists’ practical involvement and their considerable influence over the economy, it has also exposed them to more conflicts of interest, political critique, even derision.
The paper has interesting bits throughout, such as:
…the top five sociology departments now [total] 35.4 percent in the American Journal of Sociology, but 45.4 percent in the Journal of Political Economy, and a sky-high 57.6 percent in the Quarterly Journal of Economics.
The section on the rise of finance starts on p.18, worth a read. And here Paul Krugman adds extensive and very interesting comments. My view is that economists are in fact the smartest of the social scientists (on average), but this also has led economics to degenerate somewhat into a game of signaling smarts, to the detriment of breadth and knowledge of facts about the world.