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General Equilibrium Theory and Professor Blaug


  • Fabio Petri



In a series of recent papers professor Mark Blaug accuses the Formalist Revolution of the 1950s of having greatly damaged economic science by burying the conception of 'competition as a process' in favour of a conception of 'competition as an end-state', incompatible with realistic studies of stability. The paper argues that the criticism is convincing and in fact addressed at the Arrow-Debreu conception of equilibrium, which is a very-short-period conception due to the Walrasian treatment of the capital endowment. Given the unreality of the resulting model, which assumes complete futures markets and can study stability only under the auctioneer, the question arises of why the Arrow-Debreu model and its conception of equilibrium were so successful, given that traditionally the dominant conception of equilibrium had been a long-period one (even in Walras: new evidence is adduced in support of this last thesis). The answer is found in the problems of neoclassical capital theory. The conclusion is that professor Blaug's criticisms point to a necessity to return to the long-period method, but this requires abandoning the marginalist or supply-and-demand approach to value and distribution, because it was precisely the inability of the latter approach satisfactorily to determine long-period positions that motivated the switch to the sterile modern versions of general equilibrium

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  • Fabio Petri, 2006. "General Equilibrium Theory and Professor Blaug," Department of Economics University of Siena 486, Department of Economics, University of Siena.
  • Handle: RePEc:usi:wpaper:486

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Mark Blaug, 1999. "Misunderstanding Classical Economics: The Sraffian Interpretation of the Surplus Approach," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 31(2), pages 213-236, Summer.
    2. F. Berkhout, 1999. "Essay," Energy & Environment, , vol. 10(2), pages 209-212, March.
    3. Weintraub, E. Roy & Gayer, Ted, 2001. "Equilibrium Proofmaking," Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Cambridge University Press, vol. 23(04), pages 421-442, December.
    4. Milgate, Murray, 1983. "Capital and Employment," Elsevier Monographs, Elsevier, edition 1, number 9780124962507 edited by Eatwell, John, August.
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    JEL classification:

    • D50 - Microeconomics - - General Equilibrium and Disequilibrium - - - General
    • D24 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Production; Cost; Capital; Capital, Total Factor, and Multifactor Productivity; Capacity
    • B13 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought through 1925 - - - Neoclassical through 1925 (Austrian, Marshallian, Walrasian, Wicksellian)
    • B20 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought since 1925 - - - General
    • B41 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Economic Methodology

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