August, 2015

The Role of Culture in Economic Action

  • Laura Grube

    Assistant Professor of Economics, Beloit College
  • Virgil Storr

    Vice President, Academic & Student Programs
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Culture shapes economic action and, as such, impacts economic life. Although there is a growing recognition amongst economists that culture matters, there is nothing approaching a universal agreement on how to incorporate culture into economic analysis. We provide a brief summary of how economists have discussed culture and then argue that Austrian School Economics is particularly well suited to contribute to our understanding of the relationship between culture and economic action. Indeed, Austrian economics has an advantage (1) because of its links to Max Weber’s approach to social science and (2) because of its emphasis on economics as a science of meaning. A Weber-inspired Austrian economics that stresses meaning, we argue, brings a focus on culture to the fore of economic analysis and opens the door for a progressive research program within cultural economics. Austrian economists can and have made significant contributions to our understanding of the relationship between culture and economic action. Moreover, we argue, explorations of the connection between culture and economic action can be a fruitful field of study within Austrian economics.