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Alternative approaches to the history of economic ideas

Summary:
Teaching two history of thought classes this semester. One more traditional, focusing on the evolution of the theories of value and distribution, and another one, my regular senior seminar, on the co-evolution of ideas and policy in the United States. For the former I used a short piece by Peter Boettke on the reasons for reading the original sources (and they do read a fair amount in my class). The blackboard (pictured above) is based on his discussion. I changed the titles and the definition of the logic a little bit.The archeological approach tries to understand the analytical views of authors in their own historical context, while the theoretical reconstruction tries to understand its relevance for modern theory. BTW, the divide between archeological and theoretical reconstruction was

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Alternative approaches to the history of economic ideas

Teaching two history of thought classes this semester. One more traditional, focusing on the evolution of the theories of value and distribution, and another one, my regular senior seminar, on the co-evolution of ideas and policy in the United States. For the former I used a short piece by Peter Boettke on the reasons for reading the original sources (and they do read a fair amount in my class). The blackboard (pictured above) is based on his discussion. I changed the titles and the definition of the logic a little bit.

The archeological approach tries to understand the analytical views of authors in their own historical context, while the theoretical reconstruction tries to understand its relevance for modern theory. BTW, the divide between archeological and theoretical reconstruction was basically what students came up by themselves when asked why one would read the original contributions. The second one corresponds to the Whig version of the history of economic thought, and the contrarian or radical view, with the former seeing linear progress in the development of the discipline (a history of mistakes), and the latter presuming that there are important contributions that have "been submerged and forgotten" and that should be recovered for a critique of economic theory.

I would put Donald Winch as a representative of the Archeological/Whig view, and Blaug as the Theoretical/Whig one, even though I put there Stigler and Schumpeter (in part because Boettke talks about Stigler; it is not clear where he would put him, at least to me). My suggestions for the Radicals are Ronald Meek and Piero Sraffa (the former a student of the latter), respectively, for the Archeological and Theoretical.

Matias Vernengo
Econ Prof at @BucknellU Co-editor of ROKE & Co-Editor in Chief of the New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

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