Table of Contents

The Elgar Companion to Social Economics

The Elgar Companion to Social Economics

Elgar original reference

Edited by John B. Davis and Wilfred Dolfsma

As this comprehensive Companion demonstrates, social economics is a dynamic and growing field that emphasizes the key role that values play in the economy and in economic life. Social economics treats the economy and economics as being embedded in the larger web of social and ethical relationships. It also regards economics and ethics as essentially connected, and adds values such as justice, fairness, dignity, well-being, freedom and equality to the standard emphasis on efficiency. The Elgar Companion to Social Economics brings together the leading contributors in the field to elucidate a wide range of recent developments across different subject areas and topics. In so doing the contributors also map the likely trends and directions of future research. This Companion will undoubtedly become a leading reference source and guide to social economics for many years to come.

Chapter 24: Methodological Approaches in Economics and Anthropology

Pranab Bardhan and Isha Ray

Subjects: economics and finance, methodology of economics, public sector economics, social policy and sociology, economics of social policy


Pranab Bardhan and Isha Ray Economics and anthropology are often seen as extremes along the social science continuum, and the methodological differences between them have rendered interdisciplinary work especially challenging. Our goal in this chapter is not to ‘resolve’ these methodological divides, but to understand what is important to each discipline, and see the divides in the light of that understanding. There are some foundational dichotomies that broadly divide mainstream economists from mainstream social and cultural anthropologists, and in this chapter we explore the role of these dichotomies. Crossing the boundaries between economics and anthropology There have always been some economists and anthropologists who have engaged constructively with the work of the other group. Sahlins argued that the marginalist principles of modern economics were inadequate to explain the gift- and network-based economies of older societies (Sahlins, 1972 [2004]). Geertz (1978) showed that the intense bargaining and client cultivation of markets in Morocco were the result of poorly distributed information and noisy communication networks. Sen placed freedom and individual dignity at the core of his welfare economics (Sen, 1999). Appadurai has engaged in a series of dialogues between his ‘enfranchisement’ and Sen’s ‘entitlements’, his ‘capacities’ and Sen’s ‘capabilities’ (Appadurai, 2004). Douglas introduced the framework of cultural theory into traditionally economic concepts such as risk and consumption (Douglas, 1992; Douglas and Isherwood, 1996). The last two decades have seen a revival of workshops, papers and books on crossing the boundaries between economics, anthropology and sociology. Conversations between Economists and Anthropologists (Bardhan,...

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