Economic Theory and the Social Question

Some Dialectics Regarding the Work-Dependency Relationship

This article uses the 19th century concern with “the social question” to explore how theories shape our insights into our subjects of interest. Contemporary theory mostly construes economics as a science of rational action, which reduces the social question to a matter of material inequality. In contrast, this article treats economics as a form of social theory, with the social question revolving around the material and the moral qualities of societies. While redistribution may be a component of efforts to address the social question, primary focus rests on the institutional arrangements through which human capacities are formed and moral orientations generated.

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