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

Equilibrio, disequilibrio e tempo in Walras

Listed author(s):
  • Franco DONZELLI


Equilibrium, disequilibrium and time in Walras’ economics. Walras’ theory of general economic equilibrium undergoes deep changes over the twenty-six years elapsing from the date when Walras’ first significant theoretical contribution is published (1874) and the date when the fourth edition of his fundamental work, the Eléments d’économie politique pure, eventually appears (1900). In this paper we reconstruct the many steps characterizing the twisted evolution of Walras’ thought concerning equilibrium, disequilibrium, and time in economics. Our reconstruction shows how difficult it is for Walras to free his analysis from the constraints initially imposed on it by a pre-analytic vision marked by a strong, almost naïf, descriptive realism, at least as far as the representation of the competitive market mechanism is concerned. As a matter of fact, Walras very early, albeit only confusedly, arrives at perceiving the theoretical, analytical and epistemological difficulties undermining his analysis of the tâtonnement processes associated to his various equilibrium models, but he hesitates to face such issues squarely lest this would force him to give up the allegedly realistic justifications of his theory. As far as the pure exchange model is concerned, Walras, under the pressure of external criticism, soon enough (i. e. , since 1885) yields to the requirements of the analysis, by explicitly endorsing the so-called “no-trade-out-of-equilibrium” assumption, as well as the associated interpretation of the tâtonnement process in exchange as a purely virtual equilibration process in “logical” time, supporting an “instantaneous” equilibrium notion. As far as the production models are concerned, on the contrary, Walras strenuously resists giving up the pseudo-realistic assumptions permeating his analysis of the tâtonnement process in production at least up to the third edition of the Eléments (1896): such analysis is essentially based on the idea that the tâtonnement process in production should be interpreted as actual equilibration process in “real” time, supporting a “stationary” equilibrium notion. Yet, due to his late realization of the logical contradictions engendered by his assumptions concerning this sort of tâtonnement process and equilibrium notion, hardly (if at all) compensated by a few dubious gains in terms of descriptive realism, Walras eventually resolves, in the fourth edition of the Eléments, to renounce all pseudo-realistic pretence: in the 1900 edition, in fact, he adopts a novel, openly unrealistic assumption, the so-called “hypothèse des bons”, which turns all tâtonnement processes, including the one concerning production, into virtual processes in “logical” time, supporting a generalized notion of “instantaneous” equilibrium of the “temporary” type.

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: no

Paper provided by Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Università degli Studi di Milano in its series Departmental Working Papers with number 2006-18.

in new window

Date of creation: 21 Jul 2006
Handle: RePEc:mil:wpdepa:2006-18
Contact details of provider: Postal:
Via Conservatorio 7, I-20122 Milan - Italy

Phone: +39 02 50321522
Fax: +39 02 50321505
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

No references listed on IDEAS
You can help add them by filling out this form.

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:mil:wpdepa:2006-18. 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: (DEMM Working Papers)

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.