Historical Method Historicism

Historical Method Historicism

Historical Method (historicism), the basis of the method of the historical school in economic thought, broadly the theory that scientific economics should be derived wholly from historical research.

The view is that the economist should first master historical techniques and then approach economic history to investigate particular patterns or processes. The only kind of general knowledge that is attainable in the social sciences would then grow slowly out of this work. The views of the historical school in this context may be summed up as holding that the economist, as a research worker, should be primarily an economic historian.

The critics of the historical method hold that while history may be instructive it does not necessarily teach much about the future and that it can lead social scientists into fundamental error because there is no reason to expect the present or the future to resemble the past.

Historicism was developed by Hegel and Marx. Recently it has been challenged by Karl R. Popper, who has argued that there can be no prediction of the course of human history by scientific or any other rational methods. ii

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Since then his writings have in turn been increasingly reinterpreted as a special case both by some followers and by some economists who had not wholly accepted his writings. The content of economics is in a state of change, and this SHRC.org.uk site is therefore not a final statement of economic doctrine.

Economics is in the last resort a technique of thinking. The reader will therefore need to make an intellectual effort, more substantial for some web entries than for others, to get the most interest and value out of this website.