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Indifference Curves and the Ordinalist Revolution

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  • Jean-Sébastien Lenfant

    () (CLERSE - Centre Lillois d’Études et de Recherches Sociologiques et Économiques - UMR 8019 - Université de Lille - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)

Abstract

The concept of the indifference curve was the touchstone of the escape from cardinalism and the psychological foundations of demand and choice. Yet, once Hendrik S. Houthakker (1950) and Paul Samuelson (1950) recognized that the whole theory of the consumer could be derived from the strong axiom of revealed preferences (without supposing the existence of indifference curves from the outset), indifference curves survived mainly, if not exclusively, because they made it easy to teach and learn certain ideas and principles involving choices between certain prospects (intertemporal choice, the leisure-consumption trade-off). For such a role it is endowed with convenient mathematical properties allowing for the use of duality theorems.

Suggested Citation

  • Jean-Sébastien Lenfant, 2012. "Indifference Curves and the Ordinalist Revolution," Post-Print hal-01771855, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:journl:hal-01771855
    DOI: 10.1215/00182702-1504077
    Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-01771855
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Stephen W. Rousseas & Albert G. Hart, 1951. "Experimental Verification of a Composite Indifference Map," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59, pages 288-288.
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    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.
    3. Quentin Couix, 2018. "From Methodology to Practice (and Back): Georgescu-Roegen's Philosophy of Economics and the Flow-Fund Model," Documents de travail du Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne 18021, Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris 1), Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne.

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