Economic theorizing : a causal structuralist account with examples from international trade theory
This thesis applies the concept of causal structure to the discussion of economic explanation. It uses this discussion and examples from international trade theory to provide an account of economic theorizing. Three subthemes are pursued: (1) The concept of economic laws manifested in economists' practice of theoretical model-building is not compatible with the regularist view that economic laws are unifying regularities from which all other regularities are derived. Rather, it sees these laws as derivatives of the causal structures specified in theoretical models. In these models, economists hypothesize a complete causal structure that is thought to identify the main causal features of the real economic system within which the economic regularities occur. Based on this idea, I propose a new explanatory account-the causal structuralist account-of economic theorizing. (2) What is the nature of an explanatory relation between the explanans and explanandum. For some philosophers, an explanatory relation is a causal relation that is fundamentally about the invariance of a relation between variables under some interventions. This account, however, raises another question: Can causality be identified with invariance. For the causal structuralists, in contrast, a causal relation (and so an explanatory relation) cannot be reduced to any other relation; it can be explained only under a hypothesized complete causal structure that is supposed to represent the real causal structure underlying the concrete phenomena of interest. (3) A causal structure specified in an economic theoretical model is meant to single out the main causal features of an economic phenomenon and omit the less relevant features; inevitably, the causal law derived from this structure possesses some abstractness. Some methodologists regard this abstractness as the main source of the inaccuracy of predictions made from abstract causal laws. What, then, is the value of abstract laws in explaining or predicting real economic phenomena. A complete causal structuralist explanatory framework should provide a plausible account that bridges the gap between what is abstract and what is real in economic theorizing.