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Critical realism in economics and open-systems ontology: A critique

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  • Andrew Mearman

Abstract

This paper examines the treatment of ontology offered by critical realism. It addresses much of the material elaborated upon in two editions of this journal. Three main groups of criticisms are made here of the critical realist treatment of open systems. It is argued that critical realism, particularly in the project in economics emanating from Cambridge, UK, tends to define systems in terms of events. This definition is shown to be problematic. The exemplar of a closed system provided by critical realism of the solar system is shown to be flawed in that it is not closed according to the closure conditions identified by critical realism. Second, the negativity of the definitions adopted is problematic for heterodox traditions attempting to build positive programmes. Furthermore, the dualism of the definitions is also inconsistent with Dow's approach, which has ramifications for the coherence of post Keynesianism. Third, the definitions tend to polarize open and closed systems and ignore the degrees of openness evident in reality. The polarization of systems leads to polarized methodology and unsustainable arguments to reject so-called “closed-systems methods.”

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  • Andrew Mearman, 2006. "Critical realism in economics and open-systems ontology: A critique," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 64(1), pages 47-75.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:rsocec:v:64:y:2006:i:1:p:47-75
    DOI: 10.1080/00346760500529955
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