History of Economic Thought

The challenge of “value-ladeness” for history writing


Although the objectivity-Grail Quest has ended with total success decades ago (so economists say), the question of the possibility and consequences of economists' values smuggling into their daily practice still periodically surfaces, and crises make good times for such debates. Yet, not often do we historians too ask how economists' values should be handled in our writing. Read more

Ajit Sinha - Piero Sraffa’s Price Theory Without Equilibrium


Piero Sraffa’s classic work Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities has been variously interpreted as a special case of modern neoclassical general equilibrium or a foundation stone for the revival of the classical tradition of Smith and Ricardo.

Ajit Sinha breaks new ground by viewing the book through the eyes of Sraffa himself, using archival resources to uncover the philosophical underpinnings of the book in the work of Wittgenstein and others. Read more

The London and Cambridge Economic Service: New Perspectives on the History of Economic Thought and Economic History

Project Leader: 

The project aims to rescue the work of the London and Cambridge Economic Service (LCES). Founded in 1922 by rivals Cambridge University and the London School of Economics (LSE), the LCES was arguably the first body in Britain to collect and disseminate economic statistics. Staffed by a host of eminent economists, including Keynes and Hayek, the LCES archive at the LSE is an untapped treasure trove for those interested in how early macroeconomic theories were developed and how data was used to analyse key episodes in 20th century British, European, and US economic history.

Keynes(ians) and Hayek(ians) from the Great Depression to the Long Recession

Project Leader: 

This project will survey major trends in macroeconomics thinking on Cycles, Crises, and Economic Policy. The project will re-examine the debates around the time of the Great Depression and compare them with those before and since the start of the Long Recession in 2007/8, focusing on Keynes and Hayek and their followers. The debates covered include the important economic deliberations that shaped modern macro policy in the world. The project will emphasize the role of crises in formulating macroeconomic policy, in particular fiscal and monetary policy. The lack of a major crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s naturally caused economic theory to focus mainly on secular growth, and to some extent on cycles, while ignoring crises. Read more

Paul Samuelson and the History of Economics

    Paul Samuelson is well-known to have been a compulsive citer and for having a particular Whig program for the history of economics. Until late in his career he kept writing on "old economists" like Cassel, Böhm-Bawerk, and Ricardo, for example (for instance, see his co-authored article on Ricardo published in HOPE in 2006) . Read more

ASSA Meetings: a Showcase for the History of Economics?

    Economists and historians of economics have related differently over time, and the past of the discipline has then served for varied purposes. The matter compounds when we take into account that it has been and it currently is the case that most historians of economics are in economics departments. Besides sharing the same institutional space, they also share one important event: the annual meeting of the Allied Social Science Associations (ASSA). Read more

Roger Guesnerie – The Next Economic Frontier and the Wild World of Non-Rational Expectations


One of the fundamental ideas of modern economics – that people have rational expectations, an unbiased, statistically correct view of the future – is, in reality, a simple hypothesis. And despite its prominence in recent economic thought, this hypothesis and the economic models that rely on it have been the subject of serious debate since the advent of the Great Recession. Read more

Jurassic Economics at ASSA-AEA 2013

  The History of Economics Society (HES) held four sessions at the Allied Social Science Associations (ASSA) 2013 meeting, in San Diego, Jan. 4-6: “Keynes and the International Monetary System” (co-organized by Robert Dimand and Rebeca Gomez Betancourt), “Writing MIT’s History” (organized by E. Roy Weintraub and having our blog fellow Yann Giraud presenting), “Looking for Best Practices in Economic Journalism: Past and Present” (organized by our blog fellow Tiago Mata), and “Real Business Cycle after Three Decades: Past, Present and Future” (a panel discussion co-organized by Warren L. Young and Sumru Altug).

  I will here focus only on the latter. Participants included Nobel Prize Laureates and central figures of the Real Business Cycle (RBC) macroeconomics Read more

The use of economists' biography, IV.

Excerpts from a draft introduction of Till Düppe's and Roy Weintraub's new book, under revision for Princeton University Press, presently carrying the working title "Finding Equilibrium: Arrow, Debreu, McKenzie and the Transformation of Economic Theory


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The use of economists' biography, III.


“The aim would not be to unravel a hidden coherent structure of the philosophical, theoretical, political dimensions of his work, but to give a sense of the contingencies that his work was subject to – both in terms of its origins and its receptions. Don’t make up an Arrow that he himself was not aware of.”

Till to me, email conversation on Kenneth Arrow, summer 2012


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