Beyond the Regulation Approach
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Beyond the Regulation Approach

Putting Capitalist Economies in their Place

Bob Jessop and Ngai-Ling Sum

This book presents a detailed and critical account of the regulation approach in institutional and evolutionary economics. Offering both a theoretical commentary and a range of empirical examples, it identifies the successes and failures of the regulation approach as an explanatory theory, and proposes new guidelines for its further development.
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Chapter 10: Critical Realism and the Regulation Approach: A Dialogue

Bob Jessop and Ngai-Ling Sum


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 in Marxism and/or recent heterodox economics, the RA does...

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