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Origins and Development of the Trend Toward Value-Free Economics

Listed author(s):
  • Drakopoulos, S. A.

The vast majority of pre-Classical and of many Classical economists thought that it was natural to incorporate value judgments and norms in their economic reasoning. However, there was a gradual dominance of the idea of a neutral or value-free economic science which gained momentum with the second Marginalist generation. More specifically, clear signs of this tendency can be found in the works of Sidgwick, Pareto and Fisher. The paper examines the process of this change and provides possible justifications. In particular, the work discusses this trend with reference to the growing influence of classical physics, and positivist philosophies of science. Consequently, the paper shows that there was a gradual broadening of the meaning of the term “value judgments” to include mental states and motivations. These developments are essential in the understanding of the formation of the standard economic theory and especially of microeconomic theory.

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Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal Journal of the History of Economic Thought.

Volume (Year): 19 (1997)
Issue (Month): 02 (September)
Pages: 286-300

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Handle: RePEc:cup:jhisec:v:19:y:1997:i:02:p:286-300_00
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  1. Drakopoulos, Stavros A., 1989. "The Historical Perspective of the Problem of Interpersonal Comparisons of Utility," MPRA Paper 28996, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  2. Leamer, Edward E, 1983. "Let's Take the Con Out of Econometrics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(1), pages 31-43, March.
  3. Loomes, Graham & Sugden, Robert, 1983. "A Rationale for Preference Reversal," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(3), pages 428-432, June.
  4. Thomas Mayer, 1992. "Truth Versus Precision In Economics," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 307.
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