Epistemics of Development Economics: Toward a Methodological Critique and Unity

Epistemics of Development Economics: Toward a Methodological Critique and Unity

Epistemics of Development Economics: Toward a Methodological Critique and Unity

Epistemics of Development Economics: Toward a Methodological Critique and Unity

Synopsis

The effective use of development economic theories in practice is limited, the authors contend, by the lack of explicit criterion for judging their scientific content. The directional progress of critical research and teaching is also constrained by this deficiency. This study advances a meta-theory designed to assist in evaluating the scientific validity of theories in economic development and how these theories can be improved to assist social practice. Using this model, the study then examines existing theories, dividing them into explanatory and prescriptive theories. The explanatory theories include the stage-based theories of Marx, Schumpeter, and Rostow, and factor-based theories, including capital-based, human-capital-based, and technology-based theories. The prescriptive theories include explanatory-theory-based prescriptions, interventionist prescriptive theories, and theories of economic planning.

Excerpt

Contrary to popular usage, methodology is not a cookbook study of how results are obtained; rather, it is a branch of philosophy that identifies the method of solid persuasion chosen by those arguing a case. Does he or she use revelation, logic, empirically derived evidence, plausibility, or some combination of these or other persuasive benchmarks?

Some naive scientists, persuaded that the scientific method involving the statement of a hypothesis, testing it against empirically derived evidence, and eventually refining it to pass those tests, believe that they have discovered the only path to real truth. Sancta simplicimus, the world is more complicated than that. At best, for only some ideas is the scientific test immediately well-suited. For many others, thoughts within a cultural context, the scientific test runs into myriad but necessarily insuperable difficulties.

One additional set of complications involves epistemic compared to ontological perceptions. Epistemic perceptions are essentially subjective -- although we try to explain them by reference to analogs or parables the fact is that the perception itself is securely grounded only in the mind of the one who perceives it. Obvious examples of epistemic perceptions deal with aesthetics -- Maynard Keynes's "which girl will an unknown panel of judges decide is the prettiest" is exemplar of this species of perceptions.

The comparative type, ontological perceptions, are seemingly objective. What is the temperature, what time does the sun set, and so forth. These perceptions are readily handled. the question is how can epistemic perceptions be differentiated from ontological ones, or, even better, how much of any epistemic perception can be delineated and incorporated into the ontological group.

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