Blaug’s Economic Methodology

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Philosophy of the Social Sciences




Mark Blaug is one of the few economists whose perspective on ’economic methodology’ has been profoundly influenced by recent developments in the philosophy of natural science For instance, Blaug was the first economist to introduce the work of the influential philosopher of science Imre Lakatos to the American economic profession. He is also unique for including a detailed discussion of current philosophy of science in his popular history of economic thought textbook.22 The object of this essay is to examine Blaug’s most recent contributions to the field of economic methodology.3 Blaug (1980a) is a general textbook/survey of the topic of economic methodology, while Blaug (1980b) is a Lakatosian methodological appraisal of Classical Marxian economics. In the interest of generality, the discussion will principally be restricted to (1980a), although the two could easily be regarded as one work. Since (1980a ) ends with an appraisal of ’neoclassical economics’ and (1980b) is relatively brief, the latter could have easily been appended to the former, thus constituting one complete book on economic methodology containing an appraisal of both principal research programmes of modem economics. Blaug (1980a) is divided into three relatively separate parts. Part I (Chaps. 1 and 2) is a survey of philosophy of science, with a particular emphasis on the developments of the last decade or so. Part II (Chaps. 3-5) is a descriptive history of methodological discussion in economics, and Part III (Chaps. 6-15) is an evaluation of modem economics in the light of the methodological discussion which preceded it. The chapters of the last section are relatively short since each focusses on a particular topic in economic theory and/or its application. In what follows each of these three parts will be discussed in sequence. For the first two sections the critical comments offered are of a relatively minor sort, concerned mostly with emphasis or priorities rather than substantial criticism. The final section on the other hand, offers an entirely different interpretation of the relation between economic methodology and modern economic theory than that which is presented by Blaug. Prior to the discussion of Blaug’s first section a survey of recent developments in philosophy of science will be presented.