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

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  • Philip Mirowski

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Philip Mirowski, 1991. "The When, the How and the Why of Mathematical Expression in the History of Economic Analysis," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 145-157, Winter.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:5:y:1991:i:1:p:145-57
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.5.1.145
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    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.5.1.145
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    Cited by:

    1. Pereira, Luiz C. Bresser, 2006. "The two methods of economics," Textos para discussão 148, FGV/EESP - Escola de Economia de São Paulo, Getulio Vargas Foundation (Brazil).
    2. repec:bus:jphile:v:10:y:2016:i:1:n:2 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Adem LEVENT, 2016. "Power, Market and Techno-Structure in John Kenneth Galbraith’s Thought," Journal of Social and Administrative Sciences, KSP Journals, vol. 3(2), pages 214-218, June.
    4. Drakopoulos, Stavros A., 2014. "Mainstream Aversion to Economic Methodology and the Scientific Ideal of Physics," MPRA Paper 57222, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Stavros A. DRAKOPOULOS, 2016. "Economic crisis, economic methodology and the scientific ideal of physics," The Journal of Philosophical Economics, Bucharest Academy of Economic Studies, The Journal of Philosophical Economics, vol. 10(1), pages 28-57, November.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • B29 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought since 1925 - - - Other
    • B19 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought through 1925 - - - Other

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