The Subject Matter of Economic Inquiry – What Economists Can Say and What They Must Pass Over in Silence (Předmět Zkoumání Ekonomie – Co Ekonomové Umí Říci a O Čem Musí Mlčet)
Filosofický časopis, Vol. 58, No. 3, pp. 427–442, 2010, ISSN 0015-1831
17 Pages Posted: 13 May 2012
Date Written: November 5, 2010
Economics is nowadays most often defined by the framework in which it offers explanations, not by a list of topics that it deals with. Economic explanation consists in the reduction of the phenomena under investigation to the interaction of decision-making individuals. This conception, often dubbed 'economic imperialism' is a frequent target of criticism. The present article shows that the problem is not necessarily the ambition of economists to explain the results of all types of decision-making, but rather one of the impoverished concept of decision-making that economists employ. An analytical division of decision-making is offered, distinguishing between the level of the structuring of a problem and the level of solving a problem, enabling us to clearly determine the contribution of economics and the limits of its application. I argue that economics, operating only at the second level of decision-making, may make a basic contribution to the empirical explanation of social phenomena, but does not provide an explanation itself. The explanation must take an 'historical' form and it must include possible changes in the interpretation of the choice problem the individuals under scrutiny face. My conclusion is then applied to the question of whom economic explanation is intended for, what it is meant to serve, and of whether economics may be used as a “technological” science in the construction of better societies.
Note: Downloadable document is in Czech.
Keywords: subject matter of economics, economic imperialism
JEL Classification: B40
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation