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A Tale of Two Destinies: Georgescu-Roegen on Gossen

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  • Paola Tubaro

Abstract

Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen edited the English translation of Hermann Heinrich Gossen’s 1854 book The Laws of Human Relations and wrote a lengthy introduction to it. His highly appreciative, thoroughly documented study has become a major reference on an otherwise little-known early writer. It suggests that Gossen was unjustly ignored by his contemporaries, just as Georgescu-Roegen felt that his own contributions to economics were insufficiently recognized. Yet it was not only a personal motive that inspired Georgescu-Roegen’s editorial enterprise: I show that his original plan was to build a model of consumer choice, drawing on Gossen, to address what he saw as essential theoretical issues. The completion of the book project took almost twenty years (it was not published until 1983), during which external circumstances and analytical difficulties gradually eroded the initial theoretical interests, while a sense of self-identification with Gossen gained prominence. As a result, major issues remained ultimately unsolved. The history of economics, originally intended to aid economic theory-building, became the key for sublimating personal feelings into a broader reflection on science in society, beyond time and space differences.

Suggested Citation

  • Paola Tubaro, 2014. "A Tale of Two Destinies: Georgescu-Roegen on Gossen," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 46(1), pages 33-54, Spring.
  • Handle: RePEc:hop:hopeec:v:46:y:2014:i:1:p:33-54
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. N. Georgescu-Roegen, 1936. "The Pure Theory of Consumers Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 50(4), pages 545-593.
    2. Luigino Bruni & Robert Sugden, 2007. "The road not taken: how psychology was removed from economics, and how it might be brought back," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 117(516), pages 146-173, January.
    3. Samuelson, Paul A, 1974. "Complementarity-An Essay on the 40th Anniversary of the Hicks-Allen Revolution in Demand Theory," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 12(4), pages 1255-1289, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Katrin Hirte, 2019. "Das dritte gossensche Gesetz - Zur Ueberlieferungspraxis in der oeconomischen Dogmenhistorie," ICAE Working Papers 93, Johannes Kepler University, Institute for Comprehensive Analysis of the Economy.

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