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Comparative historical institutional analysis of German, English and American economics


  • Yefimov, Vladimir


The paper tries to explain the extraordinary expansion in the 20th century of the English-born neoclassical economics and at the same time the decline of the German historical tradition. Methodology used in this paper is evolutionary institutionalist, which can be called, following American political scientists, Historical Institutionalism. The link between science and university was created first in Germany at the beginning of the 19th century with the reform of Wilhelm Humboldt. At the end of the 19th century when the institutionalization of economics took place, curriculum of English and most of the American universities were dominated by classics and theology. This was the determinant factor of institutionalization of economics as abstract science with its a priori method. On the contrary, German economics was institutionalized in new research universities in which experimental approach was highly valued. The continuation and very successful development in the United States of the scientific economic tradition born in Germany in the form of the Wisconsin Institutionalism was due to the economic support of its research by the big business interested at that time to find solutions to the “labour problem”. The paper also contains the description of institutional mechanism of stability and expansion of neoclassical economics. For a century and a half, economics claims to be a science having as model natural sciences. It used in this claim a modernist-type of discourse. Bruno Latour and other specialists of Science Studies have shown that this type of discourse never corresponded to the realities of scientific research: “We have never been modern”. The paper shows what kind of lessons the economists should learn from science studies.

Suggested Citation

  • Yefimov, Vladimir, 2009. "Comparative historical institutional analysis of German, English and American economics," MPRA Paper 48173, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:48173

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Yefimov, Vladimir M., 1981. "Gaming-simulation of the functioning of economic systems," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 2(2), pages 187-200, June.
    2. Ar. Rubinstein., 2008. "Dilemmas of an Economic Theorist," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 11.
    3. Nicolai J. Foss & Giampaolo Garzarelli, 2007. "Institutions as knowledge capital: Ludwig M. Lachmann's interpretative institutionalism," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 31(5), pages 789-804, September.
    4. Keith Tribe, 2002. "Historical Schools of Economics: German and English," Method and Hist of Econ Thought 0211002, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Ely, Richard Theodore, 1883. "The Past and Present of Political Economy," History of Economic Thought Articles, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, vol. 2, pages 225-235, September.
    6. Robert E. Prasch, 1996. "The Origins of the a Priori Method in Classical Political Economy: A Reinterpretation," Journal of Economic Issues, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 30(4), pages 1105-1125, December.
    7. Helge Peukert, 2001. "The Schmoller Renaissance," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 33(1), pages 71-116, Spring.
    8. Karin Knorr Cetina, 1991. "Epistemic Cultures: Forms of Reason in Science," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 23(1), pages 105-122, Spring.
    9. Hall, Peter A. & Taylor, Rosemary C. R., 1996. "Political science and the three new institutionalisms," MPIfG Discussion Paper 96/6, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.
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    More about this item


    institution of economics; German and English approaches to economics; institutional mechanism of stability and expansion of neoclassical economics; Bruno Latour’s model of scientific research; interpretive/pragmatic paradigm.;

    JEL classification:

    • B1 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought through 1925
    • B13 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought through 1925 - - - Neoclassical through 1925 (Austrian, Marshallian, Walrasian, Wicksellian)
    • B15 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought through 1925 - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary
    • B4 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology


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