Geoff Harcourt and the Central Role of Values in Economics



Dow S (2023) Geoff Harcourt and the Central Role of Values in Economics. Review of Political Economy.

It is impossible to separate Geoff Harcourt’s economics from his moral values, both professed and practiced. His work exemplifies the view within the political economy approach that values are inevitably embedded in theory. This characteristic is in sharp contrast with the central tenet of the mainstream view of economic science that it is technical and thus value-free. In considering the role of values in economics we focus particularly on the distinction between moral values and epistemological values. We explore their nature, role and interactions at a range of levels in political economy and in mainstream economics: ontology (including scientific motivation), epistemology and methodology. It is shown that, while moral values are inevitably embedded in theorising, their scope can be severely constrained if epistemological values are given priority. The paper is intended as a contribution to meaningful and constructive debate about values in theorising, with an overarching argument for philosophical consistency.

Geoff Harcourt; values; philosophical consistency

Review of Political Economy

StatusIn Press
Publication date online31/10/2023
Date accepted by journal07/09/2023
PublisherInforma UK Limited

People (1)


Professor Sheila Dow

Professor Sheila Dow

Emeritus Professor, Economics