The Language of Economics

Socially Constructed Vocabularies and Assumptions

  • Robert E. Mitchell

Table of contents

About this book


This Palgrave Pivot demonstrates that the inherited vocabularies of economics and other social sciences contain socially constructed words and theories that bias our very understanding of history and markets, bridging the empirical and moral dimensions of economics in general and inequality in particular. Wealth, GDP, hierarchies, and inequality are socially constructed words infused with moral overtones that academic philosophers and policy analysts have used to raise questions about "fairness" and "justice." This short intellectual and epistemological history explores and elaborates a limited number of key inequality-related terms, concepts, and mental images invented by centuries of economists and others. The author challenges us to question the assumptions made concerning presumably value-free concepts such as inequality, wealth, hierarchies, and the policy goals a nation can be pursuing.

Robert E. Mitchell is a retired Foreign Service Officer and former Professor of urban and regional studies at Columbia University, the University of California, Berkeley, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Florida State University. He also directed two survey research centers, served as executive director of two state-level task forces, and headed a national task force on family policy. He served as a Behavioral Science Adviser for the Near East Bureau of the United States Agency for International Development, followed by long-term Foreign Service posts in Egypt, Yemen, and Guinea-Bissau. 


inequality wealth value judgements evaluative term epistemology

Authors and affiliations

  • Robert E. Mitchell
    • 1
  1. 1.BrooklineUSA

Bibliographic information

  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and the Author(s) 2016
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
  • eBook Packages Economics and Finance
  • Print ISBN 978-3-319-33980-1
  • Online ISBN 978-3-319-33981-8
  • Buy this book on publisher's site