chapter 2 - 2 The Key Phenomena that Potentially Cause...

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2 The Key Phenomena that Potentially Cause Growth What are the causes of economic growth? One interdisciplinary approach to answering this question would involve investigating in turn which causes different disciplines think to be important. Such an approach runs the risk of missing causes that have escaped the attention of any discipline. This is a particular danger with respect to the study of economic growth: as noted in the introductory chapter, this topic has only been explicitly addressed by one or two disciplines. A much better strategy, then, involves surveying the entire list of human science phenomena , and asking in each case whether there seems to be a likely causal relationship to eco- nomic growth. This strategy not only insures against being ‘captured’ by existing disciplinary research programs but provides guidance on what causal links to investigate across disciplines. Is such a strategy viable? Most of this chapter will argue that it is, and show how the strategy can be pursued in this case. It is first desirable, however, to speak more generally to the advantages of the causal link approach pursued in this book. 2.1 The Causal Link Approach ‘The problem with history is the almost infinite multitude of events, all of which have to be classified, described, and analyzed. A simplifying theoretical frame- work is essential and inevitable’ (Freeman and Louca 2001, 123). We have argued in the introductory chapter against seeking integration through some simplifying theory. And thus we must have recourse to a different strategy. The key is the classification of the phenomena that human scientists examine. With this in place it is then possible to evaluate theories along relevant causal links among phenom- ena. 1 That is, it then becomes feasible to organize our insights around a large but finite set of causal links among a large but finite set of phenomena. The argument made by Katznelson and Miller (2002, 2) regarding political science, ‘that the eclecticism of the discipline can most effectively produce political knowledge by becoming self-conscious about the limited but compelling set of questions it has addressed’ can be applied to human science more widely. Only by identifying the various causal links explored by human science can we intelligently first juxtapose and then integrate the varied insights of human scientists. 1 The economic historian Landes (2004) concludes his book by arguing that modern economic growth is a complex process. He thus pleads for scholars to strive to understand diverse causal links rather than oversimplify through the use of some overarching and deterministic structure. R. Szostak, The Causes of Economic Growth , DOI: 10.1007/978-3-540-92282-7_2, © Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009 27
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28 2. The Key Phenomena that Potentially Cause Growth This book will not only seek to identify the full range of causal links appropri- ate to the study of economic growth but will seek to study each of them in turn. The second step need not follow from the first. Indeed, many research strategies –
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chapter 2 - 2 The Key Phenomena that Potentially Cause...

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