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Economists, social scientists, and the reconstruction of the world order in interwar britain

Carlos Eduardo Suprinyak and Thiago Oliveira
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Carlos Eduardo Suprinyak: Cedeplar-UFMG
Thiago Oliveira: Università degli Studi di Siena

No 566, Textos para Discussão Cedeplar-UFMG from Cedeplar, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais

Abstract: The early decades of the 20th century in Europe witnessed a wealth of discussion on the epistemology of the social sciences. Not only were the boundaries between different disciplinary fields being redrawn, but also the nature of scientific knowledge about human and social affairs came under careful scrutiny. One prominent issue in debate was the separation between positive and normative analysis, and the legitimacy of the prescriptive claims often advanced by social scientists. The paper attempts to investigate this process through the lenses of contemporary debates on international politics. During the interwar years, the reconstruction of the world order provided a topic over which social analysts of different backgrounds and persuasions could debate and interact, thus exploring the limits of the knowledge they produced. In England, authors as diverse as Bertrand Russell, Graham Wallas, Harold Laski, Karl Mannheim, John Hobson, and Lionel Robbins were all part of this conversation, which transgressed most disciplinary boundaries. As a pressing issue in the European agenda at the time, however, international politics also made it more difficult to sustain a clear distinction between positive analysis and policy prescription. In the works of Robbins, one can see the topic treated as part of the applied domain of political economy.

Keywords: international politics; political economy; positive analysis; expertise; social sciences; Lionel Robbins. (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: B20 B41 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-his and nep-pke
Date: 2017-09
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