This paper attempts to understand why we generally feel that some normative empirical concepts in economics are unproblematic whereas others feel uncomfortable or misleading. I develop criteria to distinguish between the two on the basis of two notions from the philosophy of science: positional objectivity and thick concepts. I operationalize these with the help of two recent guidelines on good scientific practice that have been developed in debates around scientific integrity. This leads to two criteria: unavoidability and global evaluation. Following this discussion, the paper will present a case study on "ethnic fractionalization", popular in empirical research on the social determinants of economic growth. Throughout the paper I will make use of examples of other normative empirical concepts to further the understanding of the various ways in which such concepts violate the criteria that I have suggested.

Additional Metadata
Keywords economics, normative concepts, scientific integrity, populism, ethnic fractionalization
Publisher International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)
Persistent URL hdl.handle.net/1765/99326
Series ISS Working Papers - General Series
Journal ISS Working Paper Series / General Series
Citation
van Staveren, I.P. (2017). Has populism reached economics? Two criteria for assessing normative empirical concepts in economics (No. 631). ISS Working Paper Series / General Series (Vol. 631, pp. 1–34). International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS). Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/99326