This paper will consider the place of Marx and method, in an attempt to identify the main avenues of enquiry in western political economy. There is controversy over the nature of political economy, and to what extent it constitutes a distinct analytical approach. Liberals, realists, institutionalists and Marxists all lay claim to various parts of this grand 19th Century tradition. I will argue that, in a practical sense, political economy has enduring relevance more by identifying broad avenues of enquiry, than through received canonical knowledge. How is political economy distinct from model-driven ‘pure economics’, or the formal politics and policy focus of ‘political science’? I suggest it is by the combination of certain approaches to enquiry. No single conceptual tool can define this role, nor is there a closed door on the subject matter of enquiry. In this paper I will look at the centrality of creative syntheses in political economy, the problems of grand theory, the legacy of Karl Marx and then at what seem to be the distinctive avenues of enquiry within political economy.
Conference paper presented at Cuba Siglo XXI, Congreso 2004.