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Functional explanation in economics: a qualified defence

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  • William Jackson

Abstract

Economists seldom make explicit use of functional explanation, although they sometimes use it implicitly. Functional theorizing has lost favour among social scientists in recent years, and few are now willing to adopt functional language. This paper argues that, despite some drawbacks, explicit functional methods have several attractive features, including a pluralistic attitude to causality, an awareness of stratification and emergence, and a compatibility with a realist perspective. Functional methods on their own cannot provide full causal explanations, but they can raise important theoretical issues often neglected in mainstream economics.

Suggested Citation

  • William Jackson, 2001. "Functional explanation in economics: a qualified defence," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(2), pages 169-189.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jecmet:v:9:y:2001:i:2:p:169-189
    DOI: 10.1080/13501780110078981
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    Cited by:

    1. Speklé, R.F., 2003. "Configurations of Control: A Transaction Cost Approach," ERIM Report Series Research in Management ERS-2003-071-F&A, Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM), ERIM is the joint research institute of the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University and the Erasmus School of Economics (ESE) at Erasmus University Rotterdam.
    2. Christian Cordes, 2012. "Emergent Cultural Phenomena and their Cognitive Foundations," Chapters,in: Evolution, Organization and Economic Behavior, chapter 3 Edward Elgar Publishing.

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