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The Methodological Debates in Engalnd in the 1870's and 1880's: The Historicist Challege to Political Economy


  • Laura Valladão de Mattos


A central This paper analysis a debate that occurred in the 1870's and 1880's as a consequence of the challenge that two historicist economists - Thomas Cliffe Leslie and John Ingram - posed to the deductive, abstract and universal nature of Political Economy. The aim of these economists was to replace the deductive science of Political Economy for an inductive and historical science. Walter Bagehot and William Stanley Jevons - representing respectively the prevailing orthodoxy and the emergent marginalism - reacted directly to these critics. Bagehot's answer was to reaffirm the deductive method of Political Economy, and to restrict its validity to advanced commercial societies as England. Jevons's reaction was to emphasize the deductive and universal character of economic science, but at the same time defend the necessity of developing historical and applied branches of economic investigation. It is argued that the historicist challenge placed methodological questions in the 'order of the day' of economic discussions, and led Bagehot and Jevons to ascribe a 'place' for history - although not the one aspired by Leslie and Ingram. The analysis of this debate helps us to understand better the alternatives that existed for Economics in the late nineteenth-century, and might shed light on the direction that our science followed in the first decades of the twentieth-century.

Suggested Citation

  • Laura Valladão de Mattos, 2017. "The Methodological Debates in Engalnd in the 1870's and 1880's: The Historicist Challege to Political Economy," Working Papers, Department of Economics 2017_18, University of São Paulo (FEA-USP).
  • Handle: RePEc:spa:wpaper:2017wpecon18

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    Cliffe Leslie; John Ingram; Stanley Jevons; Walter Bagehot; historicismo;
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    JEL classification:

    • B1 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought through 1925
    • B15 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought through 1925 - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary
    • B5 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches

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