Economics as a Science, Economics as a Vocation: A Weberian Examination of Robert Heilbroner’s Philosophy of Economics

Daniyal Khan


In an attempt to re-envision economics, the paper analyses Robert Heilbroner’s philosophy of economics through the lens of Max Weber’s philosophy of science. Specifically, Heilbroner’s position on vision, ideology and value-freedom is examined by contextualising it within a framework of Weberian science. Doing so leads to a better understanding of Heilbroner’s seemingly contradictory statements about ideology as well as a re-interpretation of his position on the place of value-freedom (or a lack thereof) in economics. This inquiry also leads to a demonstration of (1) the relevance of Weber’s work on methodology of science to contemporary issues in economics, and (2) the identification of a major shortcoming in Heilbroner’s work. Overall, this leads to a clarification and reconstruction of Heilbroner’s vision of economics as a science and as a vocation, which is seen to be a self-reflexive, reflective and dynamic process.

Published on 25th March, 2014, in Economic Thought Vol 3, No 1, 2014