Economic methodology

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Economic methodology is the study of methods, especially the scientific method, in relation to economics, including principles underlying economic reasoning. In contemporary English, 'methodology' may reference theoretical or systematic aspects of a method (or several methods). Philosophy and economics also takes up methodology at the intersection of the two subjects.


  • The Theory of Economics does not furnish a body of settled conclusions immediately applicable to policy. It is a method rather than a doctrine, an apparatus of the mind, a technique of thinking, which helps its possessor to draw correct conclusions.
  • The fact that economics is not physics does not mean that we should not aim to apply the same fundamental standards for what constitutes legitimate argument; we can insist that the ultimate criterion for judging economic ideas is the degree to which they help us order and summarize data, that it is not legitimate to try to protect attractive theories from the data.
  • [A]lmost every statement which we — or for that matter anyone else — runs afoul of some existing opinion, and, by the very nature of things, most opinions thus far could hardly have been proved or disproved within the field of social theory. It is therefore a great help that all our assertions can be borne out by specific examples from the theory of games and strategy.
  • Happily there is nothing in the laws of value which remains for the present or any future writer to clear up; the theory of the subject is complete.
  • John Stuart Mill 1848 [1965], The Principles of Political Economy Book 3. University of Toronto Press, p. 594
  • So far no chemist has discovered exchange value either in a pearl or a diamond.
  • Economic doctrine is ... not a body of concrete truth but an engine for the discovery of concrete truth, similar say to the theory of mechanics.
    • Alfred Marshall 1885. "The Present Position of Economics", reprinted in A.C. Pigou, ed., 1925, Memorials of Alfred Marshall, Macmillan, p. 159.

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