Phenomenological perspectives on economics: Schütz versus Düppe

HORIZON. Studies in Phenomenology 8 (2):613-631 (2019)
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The article explores novel directions in the phenomenology of economics. It analyzes how the approaches of Till Düppe and Alfred Schütz, both inspired by Edmund Husserl, may shed light on the historical development of economics. I examine the substance and meaning of economics in the context of the forceful criticism of the whole discipline recently raised by Düppe. This examination uncovers important weaknesses and omissions inherent in Düppe’s argument against the economists’ scientific aspirations. The analysis of the social scientific endeavors by Alfred Schütz who develops a phenomenologically informed ‘telescopic’ concept of an ideal type is then shown to be a more fruitful and methodologically rigorous way towards understanding the developments within economics. The Schützian view permits us to see how abstract economic models originate in the experience of the life-world and are continuous with it. Accordingly, the historical development of economic science may be viewed as consisting from two broadly defined phases, where at first the formalism is steadily increasing (the ‘zooming out’ phase) and later the discipline converges back to context-specific empirical examinations (the ‘zooming in’ phase). A case study concentrating on the economic theory of politics illustrates that both the drive towards abstraction that has culminated around 1950s and the more recent ‘zooming in’ is methodologically legitimate from the phenomenological point of view. I conclude that economics has never been completely severed from the paramount reality of the everyday life and for decades the interconnection has been growing stronger by the day.

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Petr Špecián
Charles University, Prague


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