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Obituary: Warren J. Samuels (1933-2011)


  • Davis, John

    () (Department of Economics Marquette University)


This paper examines the research and career of the late Warren J. Samuels (1933-2011), an influential institutionalist economist in the Wisconsin John Commons tradition and well-known historian and methodologist of economics. It discusses four main positions Samuels developed and held regarding the history of economic thought as intellectual history, the theory of economic policy, methodological pluralism, and the invisible hand doctrine. Among the views considered are: his matrix approach to meaningfulness, his characterization of intellectual systems, his emphasis on the centrality of the social order, his theory of economic policy as a neglected subject, his discourse analysis of language, his emphasis on the hermeneutic circle and critique of foundationalism, and argument that the invisible hand lacks ontological and epistemological credentials and functions as a means of social control and psychic balm. Much of the discussion is cast in terms of Samuels' own reflections on what he believed is involved in being an historian of economics.

Suggested Citation

  • Davis, John, 2011. "Obituary: Warren J. Samuels (1933-2011)," Working Papers and Research 2011-10, Marquette University, Center for Global and Economic Studies and Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:mrq:wpaper:2011-10

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    Samuels; institutionalism; matrix approach; invisible hand;

    JEL classification:

    • B25 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought since 1925 - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary; Austrian; Stockholm School
    • B31 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought: Individuals - - - Individuals
    • B41 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Economic Methodology


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