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Critical realism, empirical methods and inference: a critical discussion


  • Paul Downward
  • John H. Finch
  • John Ramsay


This paper reviews the critical realist critique of the methods of analysis adopted in neoclassical research and argues that there is scope for clearer guidance for economics researchers who wish to pursue empirical research in the critical realist tradition. It is argued that critical realist epistemology, derived from its open-systems ontology, is unnecessarily dismissive in rejecting research methods that draw inferences from stable empirical regularities and patterns. The argument draws upon Keynes's philosophical explanations of decision-making and probability, on behavioural and institutional explanations of emerging and stable institutions, and on inductive research techniques such as grounded theory, to establish a role for a plurality of quantitative and qualitative approaches to critical realist research. Copyright 2002, Oxford University Press.

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  • Paul Downward & John H. Finch & John Ramsay, 2002. "Critical realism, empirical methods and inference: a critical discussion," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 26(4), pages 481-500, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:cambje:v:26:y:2002:i:4:p:481-500

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Thomas R. Michl, 1988. "The Two-Stage Decline in U.S. Nonfinancial Corporate Profitability, 1948-1986," Review of Radical Political Economics, Union for Radical Political Economics, vol. 20(4), pages 1-22, December.
    2. James Crotty, 2009. "Structural causes of the global financial crisis: a critical assessment of the 'new financial architecture'," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 33(4), pages 563-580, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Giorgio Fagiolo & Paul Windrum & Alessio Moneta, 2006. "Empirical Validation of Agent Based Models: A Critical Survey," LEM Papers Series 2006/14, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
    2. Fontana, Giuseppe & Gerrard, Bill, 2004. "A Post Keynesian theory of decision making under uncertainty," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 25(5), pages 619-637, October.
    3. Brennan, Andrew John, 2013. "A critique of the perceived solid conceptual foundations of ISEW & GPI — Irving Fisher's cognisance of human-health capital in ‘net psychic income’," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(C), pages 159-166.
    4. Giuseppe Fontana & Bill Gerrard, 2006. "The future of Post Keynesian economics," BNL Quarterly Review, Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, vol. 59(236), pages 49-80.
    5. Thomas Brenner & Claudia Werker, 2009. "Policy Advice Derived from Simulation Models," Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, vol. 12(4), pages 1-2.
    6. Patel, Pankaj C. & Fiet, James O., 2010. "Enhancing the internal validity of entrepreneurship experiments by assessing treatment effects at multiple levels across multiple trials," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 76(1), pages 127-140, October.

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