A positivist criticism of positivist growth theory



The notion of growth is one of the most studied notions within economic theory and, traditionally, it is accounted for based on a positivist thesis according to which assumptions are not relevant, if economic models have acceptable predictive power. Following this view, it does not matter whether assumptions are realistic or not. Arguments against this principle may involve a defence of the realistic assumptions over highly idealized or false ones. This article aims in a different direction. Instead of demanding more realism, we can accept the spirit of the mentioned thesis, but, instead, criticize the circularity that may arise by combining different assumptions that are necessary for the explanation of economic growth in mainstream economics. Such a circularity is a key aspect of the well-known problem of providing microfoundations for macroeconomic properties. It is here suggested that the notion of emergence could be appropriate to arrive at a better understanding of growth, clarifying the issues related to circularity, but without totally rejecting the usefulness of unrealistic assumptions.

Palabras clave:

growth, positive economics, context-dependence, emergence