ISS working paper 631
This paper attempts to understand why we generally feel that some normative empirical concepts in economics are unproblematic whereas others feel uncomfortable or misleading. I develop criteria to distinguish between the two on the basis of two notions from the philosophy of science: positional objectivity and thick concepts. I operationalize these with the help of two recent guidelines on good scientific practice that have been developed in debates around scientific integrity. This leads to two criteria: unavoidability and global evaluation. Following this discussion, the paper will present a case study on "ethnic fractionalization", popular in empirical research on the social determinants of economic growth. Throughout the paper I will make use of examples of other normative empirical concepts to further the understanding of the various ways in which such concepts violate the criteria that I have suggested.
Economics, normative concepts, scientific integrity, populism, ethnic fractionalization