Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Comparative historical institutional analysis of German, English and American economics

Yefimov, Vladimir (2009): Comparative historical institutional analysis of German, English and American economics.

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The paper tries to explain the extraordinary expansion in the 20th century of the English-born neoclassical economics and at the same time the decline of the German historical tradition. Methodology used in this paper is evolutionary institutionalist, which can be called, following American political scientists, Historical Institutionalism. The link between science and university was created first in Germany at the beginning of the 19th century with the reform of Wilhelm Humboldt. At the end of the 19th century when the institutionalization of economics took place, curriculum of English and most of the American universities were dominated by classics and theology. This was the determinant factor of institutionalization of economics as abstract science with its a priori method. On the contrary, German economics was institutionalized in new research universities in which experimental approach was highly valued. The continuation and very successful development in the United States of the scientific economic tradition born in Germany in the form of the Wisconsin Institutionalism was due to the economic support of its research by the big business interested at that time to find solutions to the “labour problem”. The paper also contains the description of institutional mechanism of stability and expansion of neoclassical economics. For a century and a half, economics claims to be a science having as model natural sciences. It used in this claim a modernist-type of discourse. Bruno Latour and other specialists of Science Studies have shown that this type of discourse never corresponded to the realities of scientific research: “We have never been modern”. The paper shows what kind of lessons the economists should learn from science studies.

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