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Critical Realism vs. Economic Rhetoric


  • Boland, L.A.


Discussing 'realism' has been a growth industry lately. Where once we might have heard philosophers argue over realism vs idealism or vs instrumentalism. Today the discussion concerns various types of realism. Basically the main question is: do the model's assumptions represent realty, that is , represent real, objective world? In this paper I am going to apply critical realism to two aspects of the methodology of model building. In Section 1, I will criticize some common excuses given for accepting less than desirable realism in economic models. In section 2, I will discuss various obstacles to obtaining realistic economic models.

Suggested Citation

  • Boland, L.A., 1999. "Critical Realism vs. Economic Rhetoric," Discussion Papers dp99-5, Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University.
  • Handle: RePEc:sfu:sfudps:dp99-5

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Dow, G & Putterman, L, 1996. "Why Capital (Usually) Hires Labor : An Assessment of Proposed Explanations," Discussion Papers dp97-03, Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University.
    2. Putterman, Louis & Skillman, Gilbert L., 1992. "The role of exit costs in the theory of cooperative teams," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(4), pages 596-618, December.
    3. Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1991. "Multitask Principal-Agent Analyses: Incentive Contracts, Asset Ownership, and Job Design," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(0), pages 24-52, Special I.
    4. Gregory Dow, 1996. "Replicating Walrasian equilibria using markets for membership in labor-managed firms," Review of Economic Design, Springer;Society for Economic Design, vol. 2(1), pages 147-162, December.
    5. Dow, Gregory K, 1993. "Why Capital Hires Labor: A Bargaining Perspective," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(1), pages 118-134, March.
    6. Dong Xiao-yuan & Dow Gregory K., 1993. "Does Free Exit Reduce Shirking in Production Teams?," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 472-484, June.
    7. David Andolfatto & Ed Nosal, 1997. "Optimal Team Contracts," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 30(2), pages 385-396, May.
    8. Dow, Gregory K., 1986. "Control rights, competitive markets, and the labor management debate," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 48-61, March.
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    More about this item



    JEL classification:

    • B40 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - General
    • B41 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Economic Methodology


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