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Evaluating the historiography of the Great Depression: explanation or single-theory driven?


  • Rick Szostak


Following James Rule and Colin Clark, a single-theory-driven approach to scientific inquiry which focuses on testing particular theories can be distinguished from an explanation-driven approach which is open to all observations and whose results do not cease to have value with the passing of a particular theory. Several 'decision points' in the historiography of the Great Depression are examined and it is shown that the decisions made at each point reflect a single-theory-driven orientation. It is argued that the single-theory-driven approach likely characterizes other fields of Economics, and also that this paper's method of applying a 'test' to various decision points in the evolution of economic thought is of widespread utility. The likely cost of a single-theory-driven bias in terms of our collective understanding is discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Rick Szostak, 2005. "Evaluating the historiography of the Great Depression: explanation or single-theory driven?," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(1), pages 35-61.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jecmet:v:12:y:2005:i:1:p:35-61
    DOI: 10.1080/1350178042000330896

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Zarnowitz, Victor, 1992. "Business Cycles," National Bureau of Economic Research Books, University of Chicago Press, number 9780226978901, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Szostak, Rick, 2006. "Economic history as it is and should be: Toward an open, honest, methodologically flexible, theoretically diverse, interdisciplinary exploration of the causes and consequences of economic growth," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 35(4), pages 727-750, August.


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