ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Epistemology of the Discipline of Economics

The ontological vocation of any social science is to interpret and transform the world we live in, creating a better society. The discipline of economics is no exception. It is argued that mainstream economics reduces social life into exchange value calculus and mathematical formalism, and fails to confront vital issues like widening inequality and poverty. The recent challenges thrown up by Thomas Piketty may help the discipline to re-examine its epistemological foundations to facilitate relevant teaching and research as well as policy choices.

I wish to acknowledge the useful comments of an anonymous referee in revising this article.

People pursue any scientific study as Karl Popper puts it “to learn something about the riddle of the world in which we live and the riddle of man’s knowledge of that world” (Popper 1959: 23).

As a scientific pursuit, economics which essentially is “the study of man in the ordinary business of life” (as Alfred Marshall famously said), obtains its relevance and rationale from the human problems of equitable provisioning of needs and allocation of resources, although mainstream economics has made it a science of choice. It is important to question the extant approaches to understand the epistemology of the discipline which truly has to play a crucial role in understanding economic realities and social progress. This article tries (i) to critically evaluate the epistemological foundations of the discipline of economics with anecdotal reference to the author’s long
engagement with the subject as a teacher, and (ii) to introduce the Piketty phenomenon to bring home the need for re-examining the epistemological basis of the discipline.

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Updated On : 11th Mar, 2019
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