An Interdisciplinary Analysis of Economic Growth

By Rick Szostak.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Scholars of interdisciplinarity such as Julie Klein, Bill Newell, and myself have in recent decades suggested processes or strategies for the performance of interdisciplinary analysis. These are usefully integrated in a forthcoming textbook in interdisciplinary studies by Allen Repko. While these processes have been developed inductively by observing interdisciplinary research, they have not been applied purposely to the examination of any major issue in social science. This paper – part of a larger book project – discusses how such processes can usefully be applied to the study of economic growth. It is thus simultaneously an exploration of how to do interdisciplinary social science and how to comprehend economic growth. It shows how a variety of distinct research programs across all social science disciplines can be integrated to achieve a more comprehensive understanding of economic growth. While the paper reviews the various steps ideally involved in interdisciplinary analysis, it focuses on how ‘common ground’ can be achieved in areas in which different disciplines appear to produce quite different insights: notably on the role of government, the role of international trade relationships, and the process through which economic institutions are and should be developed. In each case, a careful evaluation of the assumptions driving theoretical insights, the meanings that different disciplines attach to concepts, and the evidence cited in support of these insights, allows a more nuanced understanding to be developed. Of particular importance, social scientists are rarely careful in defining the range of circumstances in which a particular theory is applicable, and thus common ground can often be achieved by clarifying the range of applicability of competing theories.

Keywords: Economic Growth, Interdisciplinarity, Theories, Methods, Classification

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp.305-316. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 609.266KB).

Prof. Rick Szostak

Professor, Economics, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

My recent research has focused on the development of classifications -- primarily of the phenomena scholars study, and the strengths and weaknesses of the theories and methods they use (see my 2004 book Classifying Science: Phenomena, Data, Theory, Method, Practice). I have also developed a 12-step process for interdisciplinary analysis which incorporates the use of these classifications. My present research -- a book tentatively titled Exogenous Growth: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Economic Growth -- applies this 12-step process to the study of economic growth. In doing so, I can also draw on my earlier research as a very interdisciplinary economic historian and methodologist.


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