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Do Economic Models Have to be Realistic?: A Methodological Criticism of Rousseau's Discourse on Inequality

Makovi, Michael (2015): Do Economic Models Have to be Realistic?: A Methodological Criticism of Rousseau's Discourse on Inequality.

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Abstract

In the Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1754) sketches a hypothetical illegitimate social contract to explain the origin of socioeconomic inequality. Rousseau himself notes that his illegitimate social contract is not intended to be historically accurate. But this casts doubt on the methodological validity of his argument. According to Ronald Coase's (1981) criticism of Milton Friedman (1953) statements on the methodology of positive economics, theoretical models, to be valid, must possess a certain degree of realism which Rousseau's does not. This same criticism applies to Carole Pateman's adaptation of Rousseau in her Sexual Contract (1988).

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