Operationalizing the interpretive turn: Deploying
qualitative methods toward an economics of meaning
Published online: 22 January 2011
Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011
Abstract In his original essay advocating the interpretive turn in economics, Lavoie
makes an explicit argument favoring (1) an economics of meaning and (2) the
growth of knowledge through discursive rivalry within the scientific community.
This paper contends that within Lavoie's explicit argument is an implicit case for a
particular mode of discovery that resists the excesses of formalism common within
the economics discipline and instead puts the investigator, the investigator's
theoretical lens, and the subject under investigation in close proximity to one
another. With the nodal points of this triangulated relationship in closer proximity to
one another, an iterative learning process emerges that is itself a source of social
scientific discovery. Further, and in connection to this mode of discovery, is the
implicit case favoring qualitative research methods that correct the economics
discipline's excessive reliance upon quantitative analysis in its empirical inves-
tigations that distances the investigator from the subject under investigation. The
goal of this paper is to make these implicit arguments explicit.
Keywords Austrian economics
There remains in economics a strong “objectivist bias” against the qualitative/
interpretive aspects of research in favor of the quantitative/predictive aspects.
Worst of all, the objectivist bias has made economics boring.
—Don Lavoie (2011)
Rev Austrian Econ (2011) 24:157–170
I wish to thank Paul Lewis, Virgil Storr, and Lisa Anderson-Levy for their exceptionally helpful comments
on an earlier draft of this paper. The usual caveat applies.
E. Chamlee-Wright (*)
Department of Economics, Beloit College, 700 College St., Beloit, WI 53511, USA