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The Eclipse of the Uncertainty Concept in Mainstream Economics


  • Geoffrey Hodgson


This paper examines the decline in use of the Knight-Keynes uncertainty concept in mainstream economics. Using electronic archives, it shows that the frequency of its appearance in leading journals of economics has fallen rapidly from the 1950s. As well as to the declining popularity of Keynesian ideas since about 1970, the decrease in this use of the uncertainty concept is additionally related to the increasing mathematical formalization of economics and to the prevalence of a positivist emphasis on prediction. Some possible causes of this formalization are examined. Finally the essay discusses the prospects for a broadening of economics within universities, beyond a relatively narrow preoccupation with predictive formalism and including a reinvigorated Keynesianism.

Suggested Citation

  • Geoffrey Hodgson, 2011. "The Eclipse of the Uncertainty Concept in Mainstream Economics," Journal of Economic Issues, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 45(1), pages 159-176.
  • Handle: RePEc:mes:jeciss:v:45:y:2011:i:1:p:159-176 DOI: 10.2753/JEI0021-3624450109

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. de Cecco, Marcello, 1979. "Origins of the Post-War Payments System," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 3(1), pages 49-61, March.
    2. Marchionatti Roberto, 2002. "Dealing with complexity Marshall and Keynes on the nature of economic thinking," CESMEP Working Papers 200201, University of Turin.
    3. Markwell, Donald, 2006. "John Maynard Keynes and International Relations: Economic Paths to War and Peace," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198292364, June.
    4. Mario Cedrini, 2008. "Consensus versus freedom or consensus upon freedom? from Washington disorder to the rediscovery of Keynes," Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, M.E. Sharpe, Inc., vol. 30(4), pages 499-522, July.
    5. J. B. Davis, 1990. "Keynes and Organicism," Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, M.E. Sharpe, Inc., vol. 12(2), pages 308-315, January.
    6. Anna Maria Carabelli & Mario Aldo Cedrini, 2007. "Current Global Imbalances: Might Keynes Be of Help?," Working Papers 113, SEMEQ Department - Faculty of Economics - University of Eastern Piedmont.
    7. Anna Carabelli, 1998. "Keynes on Probability, Uncertainty and Tragic Choices," Cahiers d'Économie Politique, Programme National Persée, vol. 30(1), pages 187-226.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bronk, Richard & Jacoby, Wade, 2016. "Uncertainty and the dangers of monocultures in regulation, analysis, and practice," MPIfG Discussion Paper 16/6, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.
    2. Sara Amoroso & Pietro Moncada-Paternò-Castello & Antonio Vezzani, 2017. "R&D profitability: the role of risk and Knightian uncertainty," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 48(2), pages 331-343, February.
    3. Bélyácz, Iván, 2013. "Várakozások, bizonytalanság, valószínűség. Értekezés a kockázat számszerűsítésének korlátairól
      [Expectations, uncertainty and probability. An assessment of the limits to the quantification of risk]
      ," Közgazdasági Szemle (Economic Review - monthly of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences), Közgazdasági Szemle Alapítvány (Economic Review Foundation), vol. 0(7), pages 749-780.
    4. Hodgson, Geoffrey M., 2013. "Observations on the legal theory of finance," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(2), pages 331-337.

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