Rethinking the Culture - Economy Dialectic

Dissertation, University of Groningen (2005)
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Abstract

The culture-economy dialectic (CED) – the opposition of the concepts and phenomena of culture and economy – is one of the most important ideas in the modern history of ideas. Both disciplinary boundaries and much theoretical thought in social science are strongly influenced or even determined by the CED. For that reason, a thorough analysis and evaluation of the CED is needed to improve understanding of the history of ideas in social science and the currently fashionable research on the cultural influences on economic differences between countries and regions. This thesis is an attempt to do just that. The concepts of “culture” and “economy” (and related concepts) and the (assumed) relations therebetween are compared and analyzed. Empirical results from earlier studies are summarized and some new test are presented. These new tests are partly based on a measurement of Dutch regional culture. However, most theories of the CED are (nearly) impossible to verify (empirically). There appears to be some influence of wealth on specific cultural phenomena (such as individualism and post-materialism), but the often assumed influence of culture on entrepreneurship and economic growth remains unconfirmed. Moreover, from an analysis of the theories themselves, it appears that most of these cannot be falsified and are, therefore, hardly 'scientific'. Many of the theories of the CED and, in fact, many theories of social science in general are of a conceptual rather than a causal nature. These theories cannot be falsified (or verified) by empirical means alone, but must be studied by means of conceptual analysis. In the final conclusions, this thesis, therefore, argues for conceptual analysis in – and a more anarchist approach to – social science.

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Lajos L. Brons
Lakeland University

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