Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

The When, the How and the Why of Mathematical Expression in the History of Economic Analysis


Author Info

  • Philip Mirowski
Registered author(s):


    In writings about the history of the use of mathematical expression in economics, there seems to be a conviction that the movement towards its current flowering was cumulative, inevitable, and indeed, natural. While, such notions are widely held among practicing economists, I want to argue that they are not historically valid. The deployment of mathematical expression in economic discourse enjoyed neither an inexorable nor unhindered progress, but rather was characterized by two primary ruptures in the history of economic thought, episodes marking the inflection points in the rise of mathematical discourse. The main reason for such a disjointed narrative is that, in the evolution of economic thought, most of the participants were not convinced that the subject matter intrinsically demanded mathematical expression, while those so enamored experienced great difficulty in creating a community which could agree upon a formalism which was thought to be well-suited to economic issues.

    Download Info

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

    Volume (Year): 5 (1991)
    Issue (Month): 1 (Winter)
    Pages: 145-157

    as in new window
    Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:5:y:1991:i:1:p:145-57

    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.5.1.145
    Contact details of provider:
    Web page:
    More information through EDIRC

    Order Information:

    Related research


    Find related papers by JEL classification:


    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as in new window

    Cited by:
    1. Drakopoulos, Stavros A., 2014. "Mainstream Aversion to Economic Methodology and the Scientific Ideal of Physics," MPRA Paper 57222, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Pereira, Luiz Carlos Bresser, 2006. "The Two Methods of Economics," Textos para discussão 148, Escola de Economia de São Paulo, Getulio Vargas Foundation (Brazil).


    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.


    Access and download statistics


    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:5:y:1991:i:1:p:145-57. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Jane Voros) or (Michael P. Albert).

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.