Beyond Positivism: Economic Methodology in the Twentieth Century

By Bruce J. Caldwell | Go to book overview

Notes for Further Reading—Methodology of Economics

The best general introduction to economic methodology is M. Blaug’s The Methodology of Economics (1980). In addition to treating twentieth century philosophy of science and economic methodology, which I have done, Blaug examines nineteenth century methodologists and nine contemporary ‘research programs’ in economics. His bibliography is comprehensive.

Collections of articles on methodology are rare. The Structure of Economic Science: Essays on Methodology (1966), edited by S. R. Krupp, contains some excellent pieces, though others seem a bit dated. The source book for articles dealing with the importance of the work of Kuhn and Lakatos for economics is S. Latsis (ed. ), Method and Appraisal in Economics (1976). Two journals, Journal of Economic Issues and History of Political Economy, frequently publish articles which relate the work of growth of knowledge theorists to economics. Finally, F. Machlup’s Methodology of Economics and Other Social Sciences (1978) is a valuable collection of that economist’s methodological output.

Terence Hutchison’s contributions to the literature have continued throughout his academic career, and in my opinion, each successive volume is better than the last, which is no small feat. In addition to his original classic, Hutchison has produced ‘Positive’ Economics and Policy Judgements (1964), Knowledge and Ignorance in Economics (1977), and On Revolutions and Progress in Economic Knowledge (1978). The final chapter of the latest book carefully addresses what should count as a revolution and as progress in economics, and he goes far beyond the growth of knowledge philosophers (and integrates the history of the discipline, as well) in coming up with an answer. It is a masterful piece.

Frank Knight’s forays into methodology, including his scathing review of Hutchison’s book, are collected in his On the History and Method of Economics (1956). The exchange between Knight and Hutchison in the October 1941 Journal of Political Economy should not be neglected.

In addition to the growing number of books produced by advocates of each view, both the Institutionalists and the Post-Keynesians have their own journals—the Journal of Economic Issues and Journal of Post-Keynesian Economics. The Institutionalists have been the more self-conscious methodologically—a number of articles comparing Institutionalist and neoclassical methodologies can be found in the pages of the JEl. For the post-Keynesians, methodology is often mentioned but rarely directly addressed; the exception is M. Hollis and E. J. Nell’s Rational Economic Man (1976). Two general expositions of Cambridge theorizing, with full bibliographies and conflicting assessments of contributions, are M. Blaug, The Cambridge Revolution: Success or Failure? (1975); and J. A. Kregel, The Reconstruction of Political Economy: An Introduction to Post-Keynesian Economics (1973).

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