Markets, Productivity, and Happiness in a Historical Perspective

Investigating the language of consumption

Pietrini Filippo, Università degli Studi di Siena

Text mining is applied to 112 scientific articles about consumption. I use Sketch Engine to explore the language peculiarities and the collocational behaviour of the target lemmas in two different corpora: an orthodox one, built using articles retrieved from the American Economic Review and Econometrica; and an heterodox one, built selecting articles from the Journal of Economic Issues. The distinction between orthodox and heterodox journals is found in [Lee et al., 2010]. The aim is to highlight the structured and systematic nature of the differences in the way 2 different corpora deal with the economic issue of consumption. The synchronic analysis leads to the following empirical results: 1) there are linguistic discrepancies between the two corpora which can be traced back to different theoretical approaches characterizing the journals themselves: the neoclassical theory for AER/Econometrica and the institutionalist approach for JEI, with some influences of behavioral economics. 2) The JEI has a greater propensity towards the purely theoretical discussion than AER/Econometrica, which instead do not discuss approaches, not even those they actually adopt. 3) The orthodox corpus rahter refers to the absolute (individual) aspects of consumption, to the rational choice theory, to the intertemporal aspects of preferences and to the sphere of objectivity. The heterodox one to the relative (social) aspect of consumption, the interdependence and interpersonal aspects of preferences, to the concern for status, identity and meaning given to goods/services. 4) The JEI exhibits a richer vocabulary and a greater variety of collocations of the target lemmas, while AER/Econometrica makes use of more technicalities. 5) The heterodox corpus resorts to a terminology and references which are proper to many other scientific fields (mainly sociology, psychology and anthropology), whilst the AER/Econometrica draws strictly on the economic one. At various steps I integrate the linguistic analysis with comments related to the history of economic thought and to the sociology of consumption. This proposal is part of a LexEcon session, focused on text analysis.


Keywords: text mining, consumption theories, keywords analysis, words’ collocation.