Economic advice as a vocation: symbioses of scientific and political authority

Davies, Will. 2011. Economic advice as a vocation: symbioses of scientific and political authority. British Journal of Sociology, 62(2), pp. 304-323. ISSN 0007-1315 [Article]

No full text available

Abstract or Description

Academic economists perform an important function in advising politicians and state bureaucrats, lending them epistemological authority. This creates a challenge of institutional design and of professional vocation, of how these experts can combine their commitment to scientific analysis with their commitment towards their governmental patrons. This article examines the case of anti-trust economics, in which government economists are encouraged to remain as academically engaged as possible, so that their advice will be – or appear to be – unpolluted by political or bureaucratic pressures. Yet this ideal is constantly compromised by the fact that the economists are nevertheless government employees, working beneath lawyers. Max Weber's concept of a ‘vocation’ is adopted to explore this tension, and his two lectures, ‘Science as a Vocation’ and ‘Politics as a Vocation’ are read side by side, to consider this core dilemma of academic policy advisors.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



June 2011Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

10 Aug 2015 10:11

Last Modified:

30 Jun 2017 10:16

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


Edit Record Edit Record (login required)