Functional explanation in economics: a qualified defence

Journal of Economic Methodology 9 (2):169-189 (2002)
Abstract
Economists seldom make explicit use of functional explanation, although they sometimes use it implicitly. Functional theorizing has lost favour among social scientists in recent years, and few are now willing to adopt functional language. This paper argues that, despite some drawbacks, explicit functional methods have several attractive features, including a pluralistic attitude to causality, an awareness of stratification and emergence, and a compatibility with a realist perspective. Functional methods on their own cannot provide full causal explanations, but they can raise important theoretical issues often neglected in mainstream economics.
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