This paper makes two related points about the nature of application that are potentially relevant to assessing the recent “applied turn” in economics. First, it draws upon the historiography of the sciences to suggest the kind of rhetorical work performed by distinctions between “pure” or “basic” science and applied science, noting how distinctions appear to underwrite particular economies of credit within the scientific community and beyond it. Second, by exploring the relevance of this historiography to the case of evolutionary biology’s theory of games, it demonstrates how one particular discourse of “application”—the application of theory—operates in the sciences.

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