Theoretical Versus Practical Explanation in Political Economy and Economic Sociology: The Case of Tocqueville

Posted: 10 Jul 2008

See all articles by Richard Swedberg

Richard Swedberg

Cornell University - Department of Sociology

Date Written: July 2008

Abstract

This article represents an attempt to show the relevance of Tocqueville's analyses of economic phenomena to modern political economy and economic sociology. The entry point is his approach to explanation, which is midway between value neutrality (Weber) and the idea that explanations must lead to social change (Marx). Tocqueville instead argues that the analyst (here of economic phenomena) should focus on as well as encourage the actors' sense of freedom. This argument is illustrated with the help of Tocqueville's analysis of the economy in Democracy in America, Recollections and The Old Regime and the Revolution.

Keywords: political economy, economic sociology, Tocqueville, objectivity, history of economic thought through 1925

JEL Classification: B1

Suggested Citation

Swedberg, Richard, Theoretical Versus Practical Explanation in Political Economy and Economic Sociology: The Case of Tocqueville (July 2008). Socio-Economic Review, Vol. 6, Issue 3, pp. 427-447, 2008. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1157728 or http://dx.doi.org/mwn004

Richard Swedberg (Contact Author)

Cornell University - Department of Sociology ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://www.soc.cornell.edu/faculty/swedberg.shtml

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