4 Relevant Disciplines and Disciplinary
This chapter first identifies the key disciplines (and interdisciplinary fields) that
must be engaged in this project. It then summarizes the disciplinary perspective of
each. As will be argued below, disciplinary insights can only be understood and
evaluated within the context of the ‘disciplinary perspective’ from which they
emerge. The interdisciplinarian must strive to convince their audience that they
understand both the insights and the relevant perspectives (Repko 2008). This
chapter naturally draws upon chapters 2 and 3 since disciplinary perspective is
grounded in and largely comprises the mutually compatible set of phenomena,
theories, and methods that is chosen by the discipline. But disciplinary perspective
is more than this, and attention must thus also be paid to ideological, ethical, and
epistemological dimensions. In turn chapter 4 sets the stage for the evaluation of
disciplinary insights in later chapters.
4.1 Which Disciplines Should be Engaged?
Which disciplines need to be engaged in this study? The previous chapters have
indicated that the causes of economic growth likely include institutional, tech-
nological, cultural, social, and geographical elements. We can thus imagine that
the various social science disciplines – economics, sociology, anthropology,
political science, and geography – will need to be included in our purview.
We must familiarize ourselves with the perspectives of each of these disciplines.
We will also want to identify insights relevant to economic growth from each. We
will not need to survey any of these disciplines in its entirety in this respect, but
only those subfields of particular interest: the sociology of knowledge but not (for
the most part) the sociology of religion. In doing so, we should, as ever, be careful
of not being seduced by existing scholarship: we should ask ourselves not only
what insights sociologists have generated but also what insights might have been
generated by their unique perspective if they had paid more attention to growth.
Technology is studied not only in various disciplines but in the major interdis-
ciplinary field of ‘science and technology studies:’ since technology and science
is the only major category of phenomena discussed in chapter 2 that is not the
primary focus of a discipline, this field might be thought to represent a missing
discipline. Culture too is the focus of an interdisciplinary endeavor(s) termed
‘cultural studies.’ Marxian analysis also crosses disciplinary boundaries. Linguis-
tics is not likely to play a central role in our discussions, though one can imagine
that there are some economic advantages to a society in speaking one of the
world’s major trading languages (but perhaps disadvantages as well). Psychology
may usefully guide us to understand why humans behave as they do in various
The Causes of Economic Growth
DOI: 10.1007/978-3-540-92282-7_4, © Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009