Some Thoughts on Method in Political Economy (2004)

There is controversy over the nature of political economy, and to what extent it constitutes a distinct analytical approach. Liberals, realists, institutionalists and Marxists (among others) have laid claim to various parts of this tradition, from the 19th Century onwards. 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. To develop this suggestion, and to look at some practical implications for research, I will look at the centrality of creative syntheses, 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.

2004 Some thoughts on method in political economy PDF

Journal of Australian Political Economy, 54


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