IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/hop/hopeec/v44y2012i1p113-155.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Indifference Curves and the Ordinalist Revolution

Author

Listed:
  • Jean-Sebastien Lenfant

Abstract

The development of ordinalism was fostered by the idea of dispensing with external psychological arguments in utility theory and building the whole theory of the consumer upon indifference curves (and maps). Yet the pioneers of ordinalism, Fisher and Pareto, did not make clear whether indifference curves should be considered as an observational, experimental, or purely theoretical construction (possibly based upon introspection). Indeed, the exact status of indifference curves for the theory of choice was not seriously debated before the 1930s and 1940s, in the United States. An experiment by the psychologist Louis Leon Thurstone was then the starting point for some clarifications about the role of experimental economics for the new theory of the consumer. The aim of this article is to throw light on the ins and outs of this issue of the ordinalist revolution. Thurstone’s experiment was the occasion for a debate on the status of indifference curves and more broadly on the role of experiments within the theory of choice. It would lead economists (such as Georgescu-Roegen, Wallis, Friedman, and Samuelson) to clarify the methodological foundations of the theory of choice and to express strong divergences about the usefulness of the theory.

Suggested Citation

  • Jean-Sebastien Lenfant, 2012. "Indifference Curves and the Ordinalist Revolution," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 44(1), pages 113-155, Spring.
  • Handle: RePEc:hop:hopeec:v:44:y:2012:i:1:p:113-155
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://hope.dukejournals.org/content/44/1/113.full.pdf+html
    File Function: link to full text
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    Citations

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


    Cited by:

    1. Ivan Moscati, 2012. "How cardinal utility entered economic analysis during the Ordinal RevolutionLength: 31 pages," Economics and Quantitative Methods qf1205, Department of Economics, University of Insubria.
    2. Andreas Ortman, 2013. "Episodes from the Early History of Experimentation in Economics," Discussion Papers 2013-34, School of Economics, The University of New South Wales.

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:hop:hopeec:v:44:y:2012:i:1:p:113-155. 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: (Center for the History of Political Economy Webmaster). General contact details of provider: http://www.dukeupress.edu/Catalog/ViewProduct.php?viewby=journal&productid=45614 .

    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.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using 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 RePEc Author Service 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.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.