III. Counterfactuals and the new economic history

Inquiry 23 (2):157 – 172 (1980)
In discussing Elster's views on the use of counterfactuals and on the nature of contradictions in society, it is contended that, in general, these will not seem especially controversial to those trained in neoclassical economics. Similarly, there is little disagreement in principle between the views of many 'new economic historians' and Elster on the use of counterfactuals in the study of historical problems. In evaluating Elster's critique of several applications of counterfactuals in the 'new economic history', it is argued that the concentration on broad philosophical questions may obscure the point that much recent controversy is based upon disagreements concerning factual issues and the nature of empirical relationships and magnitudes.
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