Piketty on models

To summarize: models should be used with parsimony–that is, only when we really need them–and their role should not [be] exaggerated. Models can be useful to organize the data and clarify simple logical relations between basic concepts; but they cannot replace the historical narrative, which in my view must be the real core of the analysis (and which I consider to be the core of my book). The complexity and multidimensionality of historical, social, and political processes in real-world societies are so great that there is no way they can be adequately described by mathematical language alone: one needs to use primarily the natural language of the social sciences (and sometimes the language of literature and movies, which, as I try to show in my book, can be viewed as an additional and complementary way to grasp social and historical realities, just like mathematical language).

-Thomas Piketty, in his contribution to After Piketty: The agenda for economics and inequality, p. 554

Past posts on models: here, here, and here. And on theory and data: here, here, here, here, and here.

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