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Economics in Relation to Sociology: Dualisms and Vilfredo Pareto's Pluralistic Methodology


  • Michael McLure

    () (Department of Economics, The University of Western Australia)


Many economists remember the masters of Lausanne for their important contributions to general equilibrium and welfare economics, but Leon Walras and Vilfredo Pareto both pursued much broader social research agendas. Walras did this within the general framework of economics, by complementing his ‘pure economics’ with ‘social economics’. Pareto, in contrast, first isolated economic theory from the influence of other social phenomena and distinguished between the result of theoretical economics and the concrete economic phenomenon. He then developed a general theory of social equilibrium which, inter alia, provided for a synthetic reconciliation of economics with sociology to understand the concrete phenomenon. This paper investigates the relationship between Pareto’s economics and his sociology. Its main contribution is the clarification of the pluralistic character of his methodology. This is done by considering how dualistic distinctions became an important device for Pareto, with particular reference to Sheila Dow’s notion of dualism and Andrew Mearman’s categories of dualism. Pareto’s pluralistic approach is shown as a neo-positive blend of ‘temporary’ Cartesian and non-Cartesian elements, which is not consistent with Dow’s own Babylonian approach to economics. The paper also reveals the economic phenomena that Pareto considered were dominated by sociological influences and, therefore, not amenable to Cartesian analysis.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael McLure, 2005. "Economics in Relation to Sociology: Dualisms and Vilfredo Pareto's Pluralistic Methodology," Economics Discussion / Working Papers 05-21, The University of Western Australia, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:uwa:wpaper:05-21

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Michael McLure, 2004. "Interpreting the History of Economics," Economics Discussion / Working Papers 04-09, The University of Western Australia, Department of Economics.
    2. Marchionatti, Roberto & Gambino, Enrico, 1997. "Pareto and Political Economy as a Science: Methodological Revolution and Analytical Advances in Economic Theory in the 1890s," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(6), pages 1322-1348, December.
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    More about this item


    economic equilibrium; pluralism; Vilfredo Pareto; social equilibrium;

    JEL classification:

    • B13 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought through 1925 - - - Neoclassical through 1925 (Austrian, Marshallian, Walrasian, Wicksellian)
    • B32 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought: Individuals - - - Obituaries
    • B41 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Economic Methodology


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