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Critical Realism and Institutionalism in Economics: A New Perspective on an Old Debate

Hélio Afonso de Aguilar Filho

Journal of Economic Issues, 2020, vol. 54, issue 4, 1139-1160

Abstract: Richard Langlois supports the contribution of New Institutional Economics (NIE) to Economics, contrasting the following assertions: (i) Original Institutional Economics (OIE) wanted institutions but without theory; (ii) Neoclassical Economics (NE) wants an economic theory without institutions; and (iii) NIE wants both institutions and theory. This article uses the approach of Critical Realism with the aim of counteracting the suggestions of Langlois, who considers the advances of institutionalist schools by contrasting the theoretical (scientific) and anti-theoretical (naive empiricism) institutionalism. Instead of sustaining a criterion of scientificity founded on the assumption of a world composed of isolated and atomized events, Critical Realism treats the real unity of human activity and social structure as a condition of knowledge in the social domain. This implies the adoption of a structured ontology that deals with the opening of social systems, the existence of emerging phenomena, and the rejection of the notion of cause as a constant conjunction of events.

Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1080/00213624.2020.1829918

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