Demystifying Economic Methodology: Understanding Economics as a Social Science

Economic methodology is the foundation of the field of economics, guiding economists in their approach to studying and understanding economic phenomena. In this blog post, we will delve into the key concepts of economic methodology, shedding light on how economics is a social science that incorporates both objective facts and subjective value judgments.

Economics as a Social Science

Economics is often referred to as a social science because it seeks to understand and explain human behavior in the context of economic activities. Unlike natural sciences, such as physics or chemistry, which deal with physical phenomena that can be objectively measured and tested, economics deals with complex human behavior, which is influenced by various social, cultural, and psychological factors. As a social science, economics relies on empirical evidence and data to analyze economic phenomena, but also acknowledges the role of subjective values and judgments in shaping economic decisions and outcomes.

Positive and Normative Statements

A fundamental concept in economic methodology is the distinction between positive and normative statements. Positive statements are statements that can be objectively tested and verified using data and evidence. They describe how the world is, without expressing any value judgment. For example, “An increase in the minimum wage leads to higher unemployment” is a positive statement that can be tested using empirical data.

On the other hand, normative statements are subjective judgments that express how the world ought to be, based on personal values and opinions. They involve value judgments and are not subject to empirical testing. For example, “The government should increase spending on healthcare” is a normative statement that reflects a particular opinion on what the government should do, but cannot be proven or disproven with data.

Ceteris Paribus

Ceteris paribus is a Latin term used in economics to indicate the assumption of “all other things being equal.” It is often employed in economic analysis to isolate the effect of a specific variable on an economic outcome, while holding other factors constant. For example, when analyzing the impact of a change in interest rates on consumer spending, ceteris paribus assumes that all other factors, such as income, prices, and government policies, remain unchanged, allowing economists to isolate the effect of interest rates on consumer behavior.

Importance of Time Period

The time period is a crucial consideration in economic analysis, as economic phenomena may change over time. Economists often distinguish between short run, long run, and very long run in their analysis. Short run refers to a relatively brief period of time during which some factors, such as production capacity and prices, may not adjust fully to changes in demand or supply. Long run encompasses a longer time horizon during which factors are assumed to adjust more fully to changes in demand or supply. Very long run takes into account even longer timeframes, considering factors such as technological change, population growth, and structural shifts in the economy.


In conclusion, economic methodology forms the foundation of how economists approach the study of economic phenomena. Economics is a social science that combines empirical evidence with subjective value judgments, and distinguishes between positive and normative statements. The concept of ceteris paribus is used to isolate the effects of specific variables, while the time period is an important consideration in economic analysis. Understanding these key concepts of economic methodology is essential to comprehending the nuances of economic analysis and decision-making.

Read more on Economic Methodology: CIE AS Notes, Topic Questions (MCQ – Easy), Topic Questions (MCQ – Hard)

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