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Incommensurability of Economic Paradigms: A case study of the monetary theories of Mises and Marx


  • Mark Tomass


Influenced by postmodern philosophy, economists have held that substantive propositions made by rival schools of economics are parts of 'incommensurable paradigms'. The incommensurability thesis implies that one cannot cross evaluate or adjudicate between substantive propositions made within rival paradigms. This paper provides a framework to examine the tenets of the incommensurability thesis through a comparative case study of the rival monetary theories of Ludwig von Mises and Karl Marx. Section 1 presents the case for the incommensurability of economic paradigms as postmodernists and their predecessors assert. It defines three elements that constitute an economic paradigm— starting points, methodological procedures, and conceptual schemes. Sections 2, 3 and 4 examine whether the three paradigmatic elements in the monetary theories of Mises and Marx are incommensurable. Section 5 concludes by drawing implications for paradigm (in)commensurability.

Suggested Citation

  • Mark Tomass, 2001. "Incommensurability of Economic Paradigms: A case study of the monetary theories of Mises and Marx," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 13(2), pages 221-243.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:revpoe:v:13:y:2001:i:2:p:221-243
    DOI: 10.1080/09538250120036655

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. McCloskey, Donald N, 1983. "The Rhetoric of Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 481-517, June.
    2. Tomass, Mark, 1998. "On the Relativist Fallacy of the Impossibility of Value Neutral Inquiry in Political Economy," Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Cambridge University Press, vol. 20(03), pages 279-298, September.
    3. Lavoie, Don, 1983. "Some Strengths in Marx's Disequilibrium Theory of Money," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(1), pages 55-68, March.
    4. repec:mes:jeciss:v:32:y:1998:i:3:p:823-832 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Bruce J. Caldwell, 1984. "Praxeology and its Critics: an Appraisal," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 16(3), pages 363-379, Fall.
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