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Theoretical and Applied Economics
No. 3 / 2013 (580)

Meanings and spreading patterns of the “positive” concept in economic thought

The Bucharest University of Economic Studies
The Bucharest University of Economic Studies

Abstract. A brief retrospective on economic thought reveals that, in the quest for the scientific status of their research, economists had to refine not only their research methods, but even the economic language itself. The use and, sometimes, the abuse of the “positive” concept in present economic discourse are clear proofs that the constant changes of economic language mark significantly economic science. Coined by Auguste Comte, who denied the very existence of economic science, the “positive” concept has become for a significant part of economists a keyterm that guarantees and emphasizes the scientific status of their research. Alternatively, an important body of scholars seems to provide a different meaning for this concept and uses it in order to reveal economic facts, more precisely, economic growth. One who is not very familiar with the methodology of economics might be confused by these different meanings hidden in a single term. In this context, the present paper aims to bring more light into this issue by providing both an epistemological analysis of “positive” term and a sketch of spreading patterns of this concept via scientific publications. Consequently, the research follows two major well-defined paths: 1) the epistemological analysis of various meanings related to the “positive” term and 2) the quantitative study of occurrences in which this concept is used and cited in economic journals with high ISI citation index.

Keywords: positive; epistemology; economic language.

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