The History of Economic Thought is Alive and Well (Outside Economics Departments)

13 March 2007 at 11:17 pm 3 comments

| Peter Klein |

Jeffrey Young, reviewing Leonidas Montes and Eric Schliesser’s New Voices on Adam Smith (Routledge, 2006) for EH.Net, opens with the following observation:

George Stigler began his banquet speech at the Glasgow University bicentennial of the publication of the Wealth of Nations with the now frequently quoted salutation, “I bring you greetings from Adam Smith, who is alive and well and living in Chicago.” (quoted in Meek, p. 3) Thirty odd years later the remark remains true, though ironically not in the Economics Department. Of the fourteen young scholars whose work is published in this book, five earned their Ph.D.s at the University of Chicago, none in economics. Indeed of the fifteen only four are economists, despite the book’s placement in Routledge’s Studies in the History of Economics series. This is reflective of the fact that Smith scholarship has largely moved away from seeing WN and its seminal role in the nineteenth century development of economics as a discipline as Smith’s crowning achievement. The focus today is largely on seeing Smith’s system as a whole, of which The Theory of Moral Sentiments is the foundational work.

This is undoubtedly true, but surely reflects not only this particular trend in Smith scholarship, but also the lack of interest in the history of economic thought more generally among economists, a theme we’ve touched on before.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Methods/Methodology/Theory of Science.

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3 Comments Add your own

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  • […] Organizations and Markets I found this book review talking about the history of economic thought: George Stigler began his […]

  • 3. Eric Rasmusen  |  16 March 2007 at 2:21 pm

    Here’s another possibility: Wealth of Nations is “talked out”. Economists have finished up the topic of the history of thought– at least, pre-1940 thought— and gone on to other things. People in history-of-thought fields, e.g. history of science, history of philosophy, intellectual history, etc. have nowhere to go, so they look for less-analyzed books by classic philosophers instead.

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