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Kaldor on Debreu: The Critique of General Equilibrium Reconsidered’

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  • Thomas A. Boylan
  • Paschal F. O’Gorman

    (Department of Economics, National University of Ireland, Galway)

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    Abstract

    This paper revisits Kaldor’s methodological critique of orthodox economics. The main target of his critique was the theory of general equilibrium as expounded in the work of Debreu and others. Kaldor deemed this theory to be seriously flawed as an empirically adequate description of real-world economies. According to Kaldor, scientific progress was not possible in economics without a major act of demolition, by which he meant the destruction of the basic conceptual framework of the theory of general equilibrium. We extend Kaldor’s critique by recourse to major developments in 20th century philosophy of mathematics, and then go on to demonstrate that Debreu’s work, based as it is on Bourbakist formalism and in particular Cantorian set theory, is conceptually incompatible with Kaldor’s requirements for an empirical science. This aspect of Kaldor’s critique has not been explored, and as a consequence a major source of substantiating his critique has remained undeveloped.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by National University of Ireland Galway, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 0138.

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    Date of creation: 2008
    Date of revision: 2008
    Handle: RePEc:nig:wpaper:0138

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