The Methodology of Economics



Polanyi’s work, broadly speaking, can be said to have been motivated by two basic concerns, one of which was concerned with the general problem of methodology and the other with a historical problem of political economy. Polanyi’s work was part of a wider movement once referred to as economic sociology. As Harry Pearson noted,

The impetus for the widely current efforts in the direction of an economic sociology comes from the increasing array of empirical problems met by all social scientists who must face up to economies as social systems. The problems arise in two different areas of interest; those involving premarket economies, both literate and nonliterate, and those where contemporary departures from the pattern of a self-regulating system of markets pose the problem. Attempts to deal systematically with these distinctly separate empirical problems converge on a common interest: the establishment of a generally relevant theory of economic organization and development. (TMEE, p. 307)

The methodological problem centred on the relations among economic anthropology, economic history, comparative economic systems, and the scope of economic theory in general. The historical problem of political economy was concerned with the breakdown of the international political economic system early in this century and the subsequent development of the corporate-welfare state.


Economic System Institutional Analysis Economic Science Market Form Eighth Century 
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2 The Methodology of Economics

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© J. R. Stanfield 1986

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