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Two-tier rationality and reflexivity: an examination of the foundations of economic reason

Mark Peacock

Review of Social Economy, 2003, vol. 61, issue 1, 73-89

Abstract: This paper develops a two-tier concept of rationality which broadens the orthodox notion of instrumental rationality in economics. In the first section, I conceive the idea of “background rationality” to consist in the ability to act normally, i.e., according to social conventions appropriate to the context. Background rationality is a necessary condition for the exercise of its instrumental counterpart. Implications and applications of this for economic phenomena are investigated in Section II. The third section draws parallels between the approach to rationality developed in this paper and Thorstein Veblen's notion “habits of thought”. I argue that a viable concept of rationality must itself be subject to explanatory scrutiny and justification and not merely posited as given.

Keywords: Rationality; norms; conventions; ethnomethodology; Veblen (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2003
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DOI: 10.1080/0034676032000050301

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