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Arguing critical realism: The case of economics

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Within the discipline of economics critical realism has thus far been advocated to a large extent through a sustained critique of the position of mainstream economics. This article questions these critical endeavours for their analytical shortcomings and suggests an alternative and more constructive approach for developing and arguing critical realism within economics. It is argued that the critique of mainstream economics is wanting due to the fact that it focuses on modes of inference rather than on questions of ontology and that the scope of the analysis is too wide. The consequences of these shortcomings are considered for the future prospects of the critical realist project within economics. Drawing on advances made within the discipline of sociology, a somewhat different strategy is suggested for the task of arguing and developing critical realist approaches within the field of economics. The hallmark of this approach is advocacy of critical realism by way of substantive analyses of relevant questions and issues rather than by critical assessment of competing positions. As it happens, however, although the main focus of this approach is constructive rather than critical, a more fruitful and sustainable critique of mainstream economics and other schools of thought is part and parcel of these endeavours. The argument developed, moreover, indicates the prospects of cross-fertilisation between disciplines in which the critical realist project has now gained a foothold.


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