August, 2015

An Austrian Approach to Class Structure

  • Jayme Lemke

    Associate Director, Academic and Student Programs
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Read more at Emerald Insight. 

Recognizing heterogeneity of legal/social status, historical experience, and the resulting variation in the constraints faced by different groups can be a valuable complement to forms of heterogeneity already recognized by Austrian economists. This is particularly true for empirical analyses of caste-based societies, women’s history, and the experiences of other currently or historically persecuted minority populations. When (1) political institutions and/or other emergent social structures establish rules that apply to some individuals but not others, (2) these non-general rules are constructed in such a way that individuals cannot easily move in and out of established groups, and (3) some of the groups created by this process hold authority over others, class structures are created that can be understood without violating methodological individualism and other key tenets of Austrian economics. Like other heterogeneities that have now become incorporated into mainstream economic thought, the development of an Austrian theory of class could advance both the Austrian tradition and economic science in general.