5. Historical Schools - 14. Historical Schools of...

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14. Historical Schools of Economics: German and English Keith Tribe Subject Economics » History of Thought Place United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland » England Western Europe » Germany DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631225737.2003.00015.x 14.1 Introduction Identification with “historical economics” implies a critique of prevailing orthodoxy. This reflex is as old as “modern economics”; arguments both for and against the progressive formalization of economics have gone hand in hand with either negative or positive reevaluations of the recent history of economic argument. Historical economics has developed in parallel with “abstract” economics, can be dated from the early nineteenth century, associated with the writings of Adam Müller and Friedrich List in Germany, and with William Whewell and Richard Jones in Britain. In their different ways, these and other writers argued that the work of Adam Smith, or of David Ricardo, sought a political economy founded upon economic laws that were valid for all times and all places. Political economy had become in this view “in a great measure a deductive science: that is, certain definitions were adopted, as of universal application to all countries upon the face of the globe and all classes of society; and from these definitions, and a few corresponding axioms, was deduced a whole system of propositions, which were regarded as of demonstrated validity” ( Whewell, 1859 , p. x). German historical economists took a similar position, but were more inclined to argue that classical economists assumed that their axioms represented the natural laws of economic life. To this was opposed the project of constructing an inductive, historical science, in which the diversity of economic circumstances was properly recognized. What therefore unites all those concerned with the project of a historical economics, then and now, is allegiance to an inductive, empiricist approach to economic theory, and hostility to a deductive, axiomatic economics. “Historical economists” are not, however, all of a piece; quite apart from variations in their degree of understanding of and sympathy with modern economics, the nature of “history” and “historical method” has altered substantially in the course of two centuries. Some caution is therefore in order when addressing the nature of “schools” of historical economics. The most well known such school flourished in nineteenth-century Germany, from the 1840s to the early 1900s, and represented a national mainstream that was skeptical of classical economics as understood in Britain and France. Strictly speaking, there were two such schools: an “Older School,” conventionally associated with the writings of Wilhelm Roscher, Carl Knies, and Bruno Hildebrand; and a “Younger School,” whose foremost member was Gustav Schmoller, but which embraced most academic economists of the newly united Germany after 1871. Importantly, all these economists explicitly identified themselves as
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This note was uploaded on 03/31/2010 for the course ECONOMICS 321 taught by Professor H during the Spring '10 term at Kadir Has Üniversitesi.

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5. Historical Schools - 14. Historical Schools of...

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