IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

Walras and pareto on the meaning of the solution concept in general equilibrium theory

Listed author(s):
  • Franco Donzelli


The notion of solution plays a crucial role in the conceptual system of Léon Walras, the founder of General Equilibrium Theory (GET). In this paper, after introducing the two solution concepts employed by Walras in the development of his version of GET, respectively called the “theoretical” and the “practical” solution, we discuss the problems such peculiar conception gives rise to, as well as the attempts Walras makes to dodge them. In particular, after showing how Walras tries to connect his two solution concepts by means of the well-known tâtonnement construct, we explain why Walras’s attempts turn out to be defective and elucidate the negative effects that this deficiency exerts on his overall theoretical system, as expressed in the various editions of the Eléments d’économie politique pure. Then we examine the stance taken by Vilfredo Pareto, Walras’s immediate successor and co-founder of GET, as regards the issue of the solvability of general equilibrium models. After explaining why Pareto substantially neglects Walras’s tâtonnement construct and, as a consequence, the “practical” solution concept as well, we discuss the dramatic evolution of Pareto’s ideas about the computability of economic equilibrium, over the period ranging from the publication of the Cours d’économie politique to the appearance of the Manuel d’économie politique, showing how his mature positions on this issue, as can be found expressed in the Manuel and later writings, significantly affect some later interpretations of the scope and significance of GET, such as Hayek’s

(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

Article provided by Springer & Happiness Economics and Interpersonal Relations (HEIRS) in its journal International Review of Economics.

Volume (Year): 53 (2006)
Issue (Month): 4 (December)
Pages: 491-530

in new window

Handle: RePEc:spr:inrvec:v:53:y:2006:i:4:p:491-530
DOI: 10.1007/BF03029760
Contact details of provider: Web page:

Web page:

Order Information: Web:

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

in new window

  1. F. Donzelli, 1997. "Pareto's Mechanical Dream," Departmental Working Papers 1997-07, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Università degli Studi di Milano.
  2. Scarf, Herbert E., 1993. "The computation of equilibrium prices: An exposition," Handbook of Mathematical Economics,in: K. J. Arrow & M.D. Intriligator (ed.), Handbook of Mathematical Economics, edition 4, volume 2, chapter 21, pages 1007-1061 Elsevier.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:spr:inrvec:v:53:y:2006:i:4:p:491-530. 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: (Sonal Shukla)

or (Rebekah McClure)

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.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with 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 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.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.