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Lionel Robbins: A Methodological Reappraisal

  • Marcelo Resende
  • Rodrigo M. Zeidan

Lionel Robbins contributions are often discussed in terms of two main aspects. First, the delineation of the scope of economics in terms of decision making conditional on scarcity. Second, a more methodological concern with respect to scientific neutrality and the possibility of meaningful separation between positive and normative statements in economics. The related demarcation issue is subject to intense debate and Robbins is often associated with a strong neutrality view [see e.g. Davis (2005), Mongin (2006)]. This paper attempts to situate Robbins aprioristic point of view in terms of posterior methodological developments. In particular, the methodology of scientific research programmes (MSRP) advanced by Lakatos (1968, 1970) has been subject to adaptations in the context of economics by Latsis (1976) in an attempt to accommodate different degrees of apriorism, falsificationism and conventionalism as scientific criteria in economics. The historical path towards Robbins’s (1932, 1935) essay appears to be well documented [see e.g. Howson (2004)]. The paper aims at clarifying the role of Robbins’s essay in shaping the dominant research programme in Economics, and contends that the author’s definition of economics is central to the main elements of the hard core of contemporary research programmes in line with the neoclassical research programme.

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 2165.

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Date of creation: 2007
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_2165
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  1. Sheri M. Markose, 2005. "Computability and Evolutionary Complexity: Markets as Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS)," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(504), pages F159-F192, 06.
  2. Philippe Mongin, 2006. "Value Judgments and Value Neutrality in Economics," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 73(290), pages 257-286, 05.
  3. John B. Davis, 2005. "Robbins, Textbooks, and the Extreme Value Neutrality View," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 37(2), pages 191-196, Summer.
  4. Sheila Dow, 2004. "Structured pluralism," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 11(3), pages 275-290.
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