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Book Sections Year : 2022

Descriptions, Prescriptions and Norms

Gilles Campagnolo


In his Scope and Method of Economics (1890), John Neville Keynes applied a tripartite distinction to the tasks of economists, dividing these into descriptions, norms and prescriptions. Keynes’s book both recapitulated debates revolving around the goals and limits of Classical political economy and opened a path towards debates between contemporary economists (Marshall among others) and philosophers of economics. The Scope and Method was thus a landmark that both closed an era and opened the next epoch in the history of economic thought. The chapter discusses his stance with respect to historical economics and its role in Britain at the time the Historical school dominated economics in Germany and the German-language literature. These issues are relevant to the normative vs. positive debate since German historicists’ defence of an ‘ethical’ orientation of political economy led to major methodological debates. Lessons are to be drawn that go beyond the disputes of the time on the role of the normative and the positive in economics regarded as a science.
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hal-03895761 , version 1 (13-12-2022)


  • HAL Id : hal-03895761 , version 1


Gilles Campagnolo. Descriptions, Prescriptions and Norms: The Tripartite Classification of Economics by John Neville Keynes. Badiei S.; Grivaux A. The Positive and the Normative in Economic Thought, Routledge, pp.42-62, 2022, 978-1-03-216153-2. ⟨hal-03895761⟩
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