Fundamental Economic Concepts and their Application to Social Phenomenal

  • John Weeks


Value-free analysis can be defined as an analytical statement which is logically true, while being devoid of implicit or explict assertion of what should be.2 Definition, however, does not imply existence,3 and value-free analysis is a null set. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate the empty nature of the set by examination of certain basic economic concepts — output, employment, and capital. I shall show that these concepts cannot be defined either with cross-cultural generality, or with theoretical unambiguity. Having done this, I turn to an analysis of African underdevelopment, and demonstrate that the critique of concepts is of more than heuristic interest; by treating the concepts as if they had cross-cultural generality and theoretical unambiguity, analysis is distorted and biased. Further, the distortion and bias are not random, but towards a capitalist pattern of development (or underdevelopment).


Price Vector Economic Concept Oxford Economic Paper Capitalist Mode Economic Anthropology 


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  1. 3.
    Gunnar Myrdal, Objectivity in Social Research ( London: Duckworth, 1970 ).Google Scholar
  2. 7.
    M. Gilbert and I. B. Kravis, An International Comparison of National Products and the Purchasing Power of Currencies ( Paris: OECD 1954 );Google Scholar
  3. see also M. Abramovitz, ‘The Welfare Interpretation of Similar Trends in National Income and Product’, in Abramovitz (ed.), The Allocation of Economic Resources ( Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1959 ).Google Scholar
  4. 15.
    Marshall Sahlins, Stone Age Economics (Chicago: Aldine-Atherton, 1972) chs 1–3.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1978

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  • John Weeks

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