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Chapter 9: The Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes
9 The methodology of scientiﬁc research programmes Roger E. Backhouse MSRP and economic methodology Economic methodology emerged as an identiﬁable ﬁeld at the boundaries of economics and philosophy in the early 1980s. Lakatos’s methodology of scientiﬁc research programmes (MSRP) played an important role in this process. Method and Appraisal in Economics (Latsis 1976), edited by one of Lakatos’s students, contained detailed case studies in which the MSRP was applied to economics. Partly because the contributors included distinguished economists (John Hicks, Herbert Simon and Axel Leijonhufvud) as well as established historians of economic thought (Terence Hutchison, Mark Blaug, Bob Coats, Neil de Marchi) this book obtained a wide readership. It encouraged younger scholars (such as Bruce Caldwell) to take methodology seriously. Shortly afterwards, Mark Blaug’s Methodology of Economics (1980 ), dominated by Popperian and Lakatosian philosophy, provided a survey of the ﬁeld, a textbook and a provocative thesis about economics: it became the standard target at which those wanting to make a name for themselves could and did take aim. During the 1980s, it is arguable that the MSRP provided the dominant approach to economic methodology. There were several reasons why the MSRP proved attractive to those turning to economic methodology. It held out the hope of providing a rigorous conceptual framework within which to analyse episodes in the history of economics (many of those who turned to it were historians). Its combination of history with appraisal seemed superior to Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientiﬁc Revolutions (1970)...
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