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Rethinking the Culture - Economy Dialectic

Brons, Lajos (2005): Rethinking the Culture - Economy Dialectic. Published in: (June 2005)


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The culture - economy dialectic (CED), the opposition of the concepts and phenomena of culture and economy, is one of the most important notions in the modern history of ideas. Both the disciplinary boundaries and much theoretical thought in social science are strongly influenced or even determined by the CED. Hence, a thorough analysis and evaluation of the CED might be useful to better understand the history of ideas in social science and the currently fashionable research on the cultural influences on economic differences between countries and regions.

This book, my PhD thesis, attempts to do just that. The concepts of "culture" and "economy" (and related concepts) and the (assumed) relationships therebetween are compared and analysed. Empirical results from earlier studies are summarised and some new test are presented. These new tests are partly based on a measurement of Dutch regional culture. However, it appeared that most theories of the CED are (nearly) impossible to (empirically) verify. There seems to be some influence of wealth on specific cultural phenomena (such 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 easily be falsified by empirical means alone, but must be studied by means of conceptual analysis. In the final conclusions, this book, therefore, argues for conceptual analysis in, and a more anarchist approach to, social science.

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