Economics Working Papers

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This chapter critically evaluates standard economics’ treatment of positive and normative, drawing on Putnam’s (2002) fact-value entanglement argument. It argues that economics is an inherently value-laden discipline but may still be an ‘objective’ one. The means of achieving this is to carry out a programme of value disentanglement that evaluates research approaches according to whether their different value structures are consistent. The method employed assumes that economics and social science disciplines are built around anchor values or normative ideals and additional sets of values concerning what most people in those disciplines see as most valuable and good about human society and characteristic of human nature from the perspective of their disciplines. Since the rise of neoclassicism, in economics the anchor value has been what I term an ‘individual realisation’ ideal. This normative ideal is coupled with values that interpret what individual well-being involves, based on additional values regarding what individuals are. The chapter evaluates the value structures of mainstream economics preferences/utility and the capability conceptions of individuals. The chapter concludes with discussion of different forms of interdisciplinarity and advances a general framework for ethics and economics in an ‘objective’ economics.

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