The Rise of Political Economy as A Science
Methodology and the Classical EconomistseBook - 1997
Reviews the epistemological ideas that inspired the classical economists: themethodological principles of Bacon, Descartes, Hobbes, Newton, Locke, Hume, Stewart, Herschel, andWhewell.
The classical age of economics was marked by an intense interest in scientificmethodology. It was, moreover, an age when science and philosophy were not yet distinct disciplines,and the educated were polymaths. The classical economists were acutely aware that suitable methodshad to be developed before a body of knowledge could be deemed philosophical or scientific. They didnot formulate their methodological views in a vacuum, but drew on a rich collection of philosophicalideas. Consequently, issues of methodology were at the heart of political economys rise as ascience. The classical era of economics opened under Adam Smith with political economy understood asan integral part of a broader system of social philosophy; by the end, it had emerged via J. S. Millas a "separate science", albeit one still inextricably tied to the other social sciences and toethics.The Rise of Political Economy as a Science opens with a review of the epistemological ideasthat inspired the classical economists: the methodological principles of Bacon, Descartes, Hobbes,Newton, Locke, Hume, Stewart, Herschel, and Whewell. These principles were influential not just inthe development of political economy, but in the rise of social science in general. The author thenexamines science in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain, with a particular emphasis on theall-important concept of induction. Having laid the necessary groundwork, she proceeds to a historyand analysis of the methodologies of four economist-philosophers--Adam Smith, Robert Malthus, DavidRicardo, and J. S. Mill--selected for their historical importance as founders of economics and fortheir common Scottish intellectual lineage. Concluding remarks put classical methodology into abroader historical perspective.