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Has populism reached economics? Two criteria for assessing normative empirical concepts in economics

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  • van Staveren, I.P.

Abstract

This paper attempts to understand why we generally feel that some normative empirical concepts in economics are unproblematic whereas others feel uncomfortable or misleading. I develop criteria to distinguish between the two on the basis of two notions from the philosophy of science: positional objectivity and thick concepts. I operationalize these with the help of two recent guidelines on good scientific practice that have been developed in debates around scientific integrity. This leads to two criteria: unavoidability and global evaluation. Following this discussion, the paper will present a case study on "ethnic fractionalization", popular in empirical research on the social determinants of economic growth. Throughout the paper I will make use of examples of other normative empirical concepts to further the understanding of the various ways in which such concepts violate the criteria that I have suggested.

Suggested Citation

  • van Staveren, I.P., 2017. "Has populism reached economics? Two criteria for assessing normative empirical concepts in economics," ISS Working Papers - General Series 631, International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS), The Hague.
  • Handle: RePEc:ems:euriss:99326
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. William Easterly & Ross Levine, 1997. "Africa's Growth Tragedy: Policies and Ethnic Divisions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1203-1250.
    2. Irene van Staveren, 2012. "An Evolutionary Efficiency Alternative to the Notion of Pareto Efficiency," Economic Thought, World Economics Association, vol. 1(1), pages 1-6, July.
    3. A. B. Atkinson, 2009. "Economics as a Moral Science," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 76(s1), pages 791-804, October.
    4. repec:wea:econth:v:1:y:2012:i:1:p:7 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Martin Rode & Julio Revuelta, 2015. "The Wild Bunch! An empirical note on populism and economic institutions," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 16(1), pages 73-96, February.
    6. Irene van Staveren & Zahid Pervaiz, 2017. "Is it Ethnic Fractionalization or Social Exclusion, Which Affects Social Cohesion?," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 130(2), pages 711-731, January.
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    Keywords

    economics; normative concepts; scientific integrity; populism; ethnic fractionalization;

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