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Lynne Chester

Studying low-income households poses a number of methodological issues. Nevertheless, there are a number of measures which a researcher can take to access ‘hard to reach’ low-income households using reliable and valid data collection instruments. Drawing on a study which investigated the impacts of rising energy prices on low-income Australian households, this chapter discusses the suitability of a mixed methods approach to study low-income households along with the strengths and weaknesses of the chosen data collection methods of an online survey, focus groups and interviews. Observations are made about the use of intermediaries to recruit low-income households, the potential barriers to participation, the impact on the conduct of research by ethics committee requirements, the use of participation rewards, and the need for a research design which takes all these issues and more into account.
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Lynne Chester

Industry sector analysis is generally static and framed narrowly in terms of composition, employment, and investment, thus ignoring the process and many outcomes of structural change as well as the distributional consequences. This chapter discusses an analysis of the Australian electricity sector, often hailed as the exemplar of global electricity sector liberalization, using a mixed methods approach. The research design was guided by the study’s theoretical framework – Régulation theory – which takes into account a wide range of factors driving change over time, and incorporates more than economic concepts. The chapter’s discussion covers the research design for the Australian study which transformed its theoretical framework to an empirical representation, the multiple data collection methods and data sources used, the steps taken to develop the study’s critical content analysis of documents, the key findings of the analysis, and some observations about the study’s analytical framework, triangulation, and mixed methods research design.
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Lynne Chester

The energy regime upon which capitalism is dependent is not the object of analysis for mainstream economics. Energy is treated by mainstream economics as an abstract adjunct to the capitalist economy in the form of inter alia an intermediate production input, a market, a commodity, a relationship to economic growth or the source of production externalities such as resource depletion and pollution. This chapter posits an alternative analytical framework drawn from French Régulation theory, which, using institutions as the focus of enquiry, situates the analysis of energy within its context of use within capitalism and the processes of economic change.

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Lynne Chester and Joy Paton

As the environmental debate has intensified, post-Keynesians, Régulationists and Polanyians remain relatively silent. All treat time as historical, consider economic issues subordinate to politics and have plenty to say about growth, institutions, uncertainty and path-dependent events. These concepts seem pertinent to understanding the economic–environment problematic. This article explores the ‘environmental potential’ of these three heterodox economic traditions. We examine the conception of nature underpinning each methodological approach and the ability of their key conceptual tools to explain the economic–environment relation. Methodological pluralism and a project driven by the neoclassical agenda, we posit, seriously weakens the possibility of a post-Keynesian-grounded coherent environmental perspective. On the other hand, the Régulationists and Polanyians provide cogent analytical frameworks to advance explanations of the economic–environment relation and the contemporary environmental challenge.