Putting Capitalist Economies in their Place
10. Critical realism and the regulation approach: a dialogue Critical realism offers a distinctive philosophy of science that applies to the social as well as natural sciences. It is an anti-positivist, anti-empiricist paradigm that emphasizes three issues: the existence of real but often latent causal mechanisms that may be contingently actualized in speciﬁc conjunctures; the stratiﬁcation of the real world into different layers and regions that require different concepts, assumptions and explanatory principles corresponding to their different emergent properties; and the identiﬁcation of the naturally necessary properties and causal mechanisms in different ﬁelds as well as the conditions in which they will be actualized. As we argued in Chapter 1 the regulation approach operates with an implicitly critical realist ontology, epistemology, and methodology. Yet critical realist commentators on the critique of political economy and the economics discipline have not discussed the RA as an exemplar of critical realism (for example, Baert 1996; Lawson 1989, 1995, 1997; Pratten 1997; Fleetwood 1999; Nielsen 2000). The most likely explanations for this neglect are that critical realists have been more concerned to show that, at its best, Marx’s own work adopts a critical realist approach (Bhaskar 1991: 143; Marsden 1998, 1999; Roberts 1999) or can be reinterpreted in such terms (Pratten 1997; Ehrbar 1998, 2002; Fleetwood 2002; Kanth 1999); to develop a metatheoretical critique of orthodox economics (Lawson 1995, 1997); and to uncover critical realist aspects of other types of heterodox economic theorizing. In short, where critical realists have shown interest...
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