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A Note on Backhouse and Medema: On Walras’ Contribution to the Definition of Economics

Vahabi, Mehrdad (2012): A Note on Backhouse and Medema: On Walras’ Contribution to the Definition of Economics.

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Abstract

In this paper, I argue that the insightful and rich collection of various definitions of economics provided by Backhouse and Medema (2009a,b) suffers from a major shortcoming: it misses Walras’ contributions on this topic. Borrowing from the authors’ taxonomy, I will show that Walras’ ‘synthetic method’ provides a particular interpretation that brings together ‘wealth-based,’ ‘scarcity-based,’ and ‘market-exchange based’ definitions of economics. Finally, I will argue that the ‘scarcity-based’ definition of economics originated with the Walrases (the father and son) rather than Robbins ([1932]1935). Walras pioneered the notion of scarcity as a subjective agent-based reality existing at an individual level.

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