The Review of Austrian Economics, 14:2/3, 209–218, 2001.
2001 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Manufactured in The Netherlands.
Phenomenological and Interpretive-Structural
Approaches to Economics and Sociology: Schutzian
Themes in Adolph Lowe’s Political Economics
University of Missouri-Kansas City, Kansas City, Missouri
Abstract. Lowe’s “interpretive-structural” approach to economics has important areas of contact with Schutzian
social inquiry. Elaboration of Lowe’s approach may thus play a role in the development of a phenomenological
economics, while the work of Schutz and his followers can contribute to the elaboration of Lowe’s interpretive-
structural approach. A key issue to be worked out will be the relative importance of structural factors, or what we
have here called transsubjective structures, and their relation to human motivations and behaviors.
JEL Classiﬁcation: B20, A12, B41, B53, B52, B31.
“Academic research in the social sciences and the practical application of their results
are suffering to-day from a general defect for which even the greatest achievements
within the special branches cannot compensate. An excessive division of labour, a lack
of synthetic co-operation between the various sections of social research more and
more restrict the truth of any partial knowledge, the efﬁciency of any concrete action
Adolph Lowe’s “plea for cooperation in the social sciences” in his greatly overlooked and
under-examined Economics and Sociology remained an important theme of his lifework for
the next sixty years. Even prior to its publication, Lowe was immersed in such a tradition.
He held the chair in Economic Theory and Sociology at Kiel University in the late twenties
and early thirties. His mentor, Franz Oppenheimer, held the chair in Sociology at Frankfurt,
then Germany’s sole full professorship in the discipline (Simonds 1978:5). Lowe would still
claim as late as 1965 that Oppenheimer’s was “the most comprehensive system der soziologie
ever written” (Lowe 1965:133). At a time when the historical school still dominated the
discipline (and especially the academy), Lowe identiﬁed Oppenheimer as one of the few
scholars in Germany with whom “one could study [economic] theory in the classical and neo-
classical meaning of the term (Lowe 1959:60). Oppenheimer and Lowe were later founding
members of the editorial board of the American Journal of Economics and Sociology. The
Journal continues to take Lowe’s (1935) call for cooperation and constructive synthesis as
Following Oppenheimer’s tenure at Frankfurt, the same Chair in Sociology was held by
Lowe’s close friend and associate, Karl Mannheim. Lowe himself had moved from Kiel
Thanks to Roger Koppl for discussion on related issues, and to Jonathon Mote for comments on an earlier draft.