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Political economy and the ‘modern view’ as reflected

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发表于 2017-9-7 08:28:00 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式
Political economy and the ‘modern view’ as reflected in the history of economic thought
Abstract

This paper focuses on the transition from classical political economy to ‘modern’ economics, a central aspect of which is the ascent of the conception of ‘theory’ as a mere instrument of research. We analyse how this transitional phase was perceived and interpreted in representative, more or less contemporaneous histories of economic thought: those by Luigi Cossa in 1880, by John Kells Ingram in 1915 (originally published in 1888), and by Charles Gide and Charles Rist in 1915. Despite their differences, all authors share the same conception of the structure of scientific laws, as well as the view that economics must be separated from liberalism.

Keywords: History of economic thought, methodology, classical economics

 楼主| 发表于 2017-9-7 08:28:41 | 显示全部楼层
1. Introduction

The present paper is concerned with the transition from political economy to ‘modern’ economics and the way in which this transitional period was understood and interpreted by contemporaneous historians of economic thought. This transition has, of course, multiple features, which evolved over a long period of time. However, one of its central aspects is the gradual ascent of the conception of ‘theory’ as a mere engine of analysis. As Joseph Schumpeter (1954 Schumpeter, J.A. (1954). History of Economic Analysis. Edited by E.B. Schumpeter. Reprinted in 1994. London and New York: Routledge.
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: 1141) writes, ‘[t]here was a time when… there was a ‘liberal’ or ‘socialist’ or ‘mercantilist’ theory, and all those theories more or less meant political doctrines or at least practical recommendations. This is not the modern view. The modern economist considers theory simply as an instrument of research.’

The purpose of focusing on representative histories of economic thought more or less contemporaneous with the transformation of political economy into ‘modern’ economics is twofold. On the one hand, the viewpoints of their authors, now largely forgotten, are interesting in themselves. On the other hand, because these histories were widely read, their insights and misunderstandings may have been rather more influential than histories of economic thought presently are.

The paper has five sections. Section 2 provides a brief overview of the context in which ‘modern’ economics was to replace classical political economy. Section 3 explains why we selected the particular histories that we focus on, intended to be representative in the British context – those by Luigi Cossa (1880) Cossa, L. (1880). Guide to the Study of Political Economy (translated from the 2nd (1878) Italian edition, with a Preface by W. Stanley Jevons, F.R.S.). London: Macmillan and Co. (first published in 1876 as Guida allo studio dell’ economia politica).
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, John Kells Ingram (1915 Ingram, J.K. (1915). A History of Political Economy. 2nd ed. (with a new preface by Richard T. Ely and a supplementary chapter by William A. Scott). Edinburgh: Adam & Charles Black (first published in 1888).
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, originally published in 1888), and Charles Gide and Charles Rist (1915) Gide, C. and Rist, C. (1915). A History of Economic Doctrines from the Time of the Physiocrats to the Present Day (authorised translation from the 2nd revised and augmented edition of 1913). London: George G. Harrap & Company (first published in 1909 as Histoire des doctrines économiques depuis les Physiocrates jusqu’à nos jours).
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– and retrieves the views of these authors on economics, its nature and prospects. Section 4 provides a critical assessment of these views, and concluding comments appear in Section 5.
 楼主| 发表于 2017-9-7 08:29:19 | 显示全部楼层
2. Tensions in classical political economy

Before we turn to the selected histories of economic ideas, it is convenient to provide a succinct overview of some central features of the context out of which ‘modern’ economics emerged. This is the purpose of the present section. More specifically, we intend to draw attention to three, largely uncontroversial points, which it is useful to keep in mind in order to interpret the historians of economic thought with whom we will be concerned shortly. First, the classical period was marked by a considerable degree of consensus among economists, but methodological tensions are nevertheless apparent. Second, some classical conceptions of political economy foreshadow the ‘modern view’ of theory as a mere instrument. In other words, the transition to this conception was, of course, a gradual process of which there are clear traces in the classical era. Third, the decomposition of classical political economy was propelled by several factors, which include the above-mentioned methodological tensions, the availability of alternative conceptions, and a widespread disenchantment with liberalism.

Social, political, or religious dissent from economists has, of course, been conspicuous throughout history, and the nineteenth century is no exception.11 This exogenous dissent sometimes constitutes what William Coleman (2002 Coleman, W.O. (2002). Economics and Its Enemies. Two Centuries of Anti-Economics. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.
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: 7) calls ‘anti-economics’: an heterogeneous and evolving set of radical objections, based on the belief that ‘there is no value to be salvaged from economics in its present state’.
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However, as remarked, there was a considerable degree of consensus among political economists for a while, certainly in the British context, a consensus strong enough to allow for the identification of political economy with classical economics. In a sense there was a single school – dissent from which was largely exogenous to the discipline – and therefore a widespread sense of secure foundations on which an increasingly imposing edifice was being erected. Indeed, in 1848, John Stuart Mill felt confident enough to speak, as Schumpeter (1954 Schumpeter, J.A. (1954). History of Economic Analysis. Edited by E.B. Schumpeter. Reprinted in 1994. London and New York: Routledge.
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: 530) puts it, ‘from the vantage ground of definitely established truth’.22 ‘Happily, there is nothing in the laws of value which remains for the present or any future writer to clear up; the theory of the subject is complete: the only difficulty to be overcome is that of so stating it as to solve by anticipation the chief perplexities which occur in applying it.’ (Mill 1909 Mill, J.S. (1909). Principles of Political Economy with some of their Applications to Social Philosophy. 7th ed. Edited by W.J. Ashley. London: Longmans, Green and Co. (The Online Library of Liberty. First published in 1848).
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: 313–4)
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At the core of this classical consensus is the generalised acceptance – or perhaps, partly, entrenchment (see ibid.: 581) – of a few basic theoretical propositions, summarised in Senior's four postulates. At the meta-theoretical level, however, consensus among classical economists was arguably more fragile. Of course, all the important authors agree on the scientific status of political economy and on its practical relevance. Following the footsteps of Adam Smith, or believing that they were doing so, they propose to develop a set of principles – a ‘science’ – which would help to ground the ‘art’ of policy, even if in practice they (especially Ricardo and Say) do not really separate the ‘science’ and the ‘art’ (see e.g. Hutchison 1964 Hutchison, T.W. (1964). ‘Positive’ Economics and Policy Objectives. Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press.
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: 25–6). Nevertheless, it is easy to find contrasting views on the scope of political economy. British writers, who identify political economy with the study of the laws of production and distribution (see e.g. Mill 1909 Mill, J.S. (1909). Principles of Political Economy with some of their Applications to Social Philosophy. 7th ed. Edited by W.J. Ashley. London: Longmans, Green and Co. (The Online Library of Liberty. First published in 1848).
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: 44–5), or of wealth rather than happiness (see e.g. Senior 1854 Senior, N. (1854). Political Economy. 3rd ed. London: Richard Griffin and Co. (The Online Library of Liberty).
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: 6), have a narrower view of their subject than continental authors (see e.g. Say 1840 Say, J.-B. (1840). Cours Complet d’économie Politique Pratique. Bruxelles: Société Belge de Librairie (Hauman et Cie).
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: 1). Mill summarises this difference in outlook:

The science of social economy embraces every part of man's nature, in so far as influencing the conduct or condition of man in society; and therefore may it be termed speculative politics, as being the scientific foundation of practical politics, or the art of government, of which the art of legislation is a part. It is to this important division of the field of science that one of the writers who have most correctly conceived and copiously illustrated its nature and limits, – we mean M. Say, – has chosen to give the name Political Economy … But the words “political economy” have long ceased to have so large a meaning … What is now commonly understood by the term “Political Economy” is not the science of speculative politics, but a branch of that science. It does not treat of the whole of man's nature as modified by the social state, nor of the whole conduct of man in society. It is concerned with him solely as a being who desires to possess wealth, and who is capable of judging of the comparative efficacy of means for obtaining that end. (Mill 1844 Mill, J.S. (1844). On the definition of political economy; and on the method of investigation proper to it. Essay V in Essays on Some Unsettled Questions in Political Economy. In The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume IV: Essays on Economics and Society, Part I. The Online Library of Liberty.

: 284)

Moreover, though political economy is envisaged as – or as including – a science, there are contrasting views regarding the kind of science that it is supposed to be. How does it compare to other sciences? What is the status of its principles or ‘laws’? Comments on the connection between ‘theory’ and facts, or on deduction vs. induction, do not show irreconcilable differences,33 Senior (1854 Senior, N. (1854). Political Economy. 3rd ed. London: Richard Griffin and Co. (The Online Library of Liberty).
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: 7) writes: ‘The practical applications of [Political Economy], like the practical applications of every other Science, without doubt, require the collection and examination of facts to an almost indefinite extent … but the facts on which the general principles of the Science rest may be stated in a very few sentences, and indeed in a very few words.’ Say (1855 Say, J.-B. (1855). A Treatise on Political Economy; or the Production, Distribution, and Consumption of Wealth. Edited by Clement C. Biddle. Translated by C.R. Prinsep from the 4th edition of the French. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott, Grambo & Co. (The Online Library of Liberty. First published in 1803).
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: 18) takes much the same stance.
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but it is nevertheless apparent that authors do not quite agree on the nature of political economy. Malthus (1836 Malthus, T.R. (1836). Principles of Political Economy. 2nd ed. London: William Pickering.
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: 1), for instance, cautions against ‘a serious error if we were to suppose that any propositions, the practical results of which depend upon the agency of so variable a being as man, and the qualities of so variable a compound as the soil, can ever admit of the same kinds of proof, or lead to the same certain conclusions, as those which relate to figure and number’, and he goes on to remark that the science of political economy ‘bears a nearer resemblance to the science of morals and politics than to that of mathematics’. Say (1840 Say, J.-B. (1840). Cours Complet d’économie Politique Pratique. Bruxelles: Société Belge de Librairie (Hauman et Cie).
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: 5), however, writes that, in the physical as in the moral and political sciences, a fact is always caused by other facts, and the same cause produces the same effect, and Mill's conception of political economy repeatedly relies on analogies with physics and mathematics. For him, the abstract ‘science’ of political economy, which is the foundation of a practical ‘art’, is concerned with mankind from one viewpoint only and in this sense it is based on certain assumptions, or a priori. As in physics, or indeed in any other abstract science, it is necessary to isolate this particular, economic dimension from other dimensions present in human action in order to formulate ‘laws’. ‘Science’, Mill writes,

is a collection of truths; art, a body of rules, or directions for conduct. The language of science is, This is, or, This is not; This does, or does not, happen. The language of art is, Do this; Avoid that. Science takes cognizance of a phenomenon, and endeavours to discover its law; art proposes to itself an end, and looks out for means to effect it. If, therefore, Political Economy be a science, it cannot be a collection of practical rules; though, unless it be altogether a useless science, practical rules must be capable of being founded upon it. The science of mechanics, a branch of natural philosophy, lays down the laws of motion, and the properties of what are called the mechanical powers. The art of practical mechanics teaches how we may avail ourselves of those laws and properties, to increase our command over external nature. (Mill 1844 Mill, J.S. (1844). On the definition of political economy; and on the method of investigation proper to it. Essay V in Essays on Some Unsettled Questions in Political Economy. In The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume IV: Essays on Economics and Society, Part I. The Online Library of Liberty.

: 278)

By the method à priori we mean … reasoning from an assumed hypothesis; which is not a practice confined to mathematics, but is of the essence of all science which admits of general reasoning at all. To verify the hypothesis itself à posteriori, that is, to examine whether the facts of any actual case are in accordance with it, is no part of the business of science at all, but of the application of science. In the definition which we have attempted to frame of the science of Political Economy, we have characterized it as essentially an abstract science, and its method as the method à priori … It reasons, and, as we contend, must necessarily reason, from assumptions, not from facts. It is built upon hypotheses, strictly analogous to those which, under the name of definitions, are the foundation of the other abstract sciences. Geometry presupposes an arbitrary definition of a line, “that which has length but not breadth.” Just in the same manner does Political Economy presuppose an arbitrary definition of man. (ibid.: 287–8)

Not that any political economist was ever so absurd as to suppose that mankind are really thus constituted, but because this is the mode in which science must necessarily proceed. When an effect depends upon a concurrence of causes, those causes must be studied one at a time, and their laws separately investigated, if we wish, through the causes, to obtain the power of either predicting or controlling the effect; since the law of the effect is compounded of the laws of all the causes which determine it. The law of the centripetal and that of the tangential force must have been known before the motions of the earth and planets could be explained, or many of them predicted. The same is the case with the conduct of man in society. (ibid.: 285)
 楼主| 发表于 2017-9-7 08:29:45 | 显示全部楼层
These contrasting viewpoints on the scope and on the nature of political economy – particularly the latter – show that classical meta-theory is ambiguous and evolving. As Schumpeter (1954 Schumpeter, J.A. (1954). History of Economic Analysis. Edited by E.B. Schumpeter. Reprinted in 1994. London and New York: Routledge.
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: 534) observes, it is during the classical era that economists develop an interest (‘not untinged with anxiety’) in problems of scope and method, and discover that they disagree in this respect.

However, second, Mill's statements at least suggest that his position is not so distant from the ‘modern view’. Mill is concerned with the empirical relevance of political economy, and his point of view is probably realist rather than instrumentalist. He does not go so far as to argue that ‘the logical scheme of economic rationality commonly known as “pure theory” … can never yield any “laws” but only serve in an instrumental capacity’ (Schumpeter 1954 Schumpeter, J.A. (1954). History of Economic Analysis. Edited by E.B. Schumpeter. Reprinted in 1994. London and New York: Routledge.
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: 824, footnote 25). Nevertheless, he stresses the hypothetical or a priori nature of abstract political economy which, as remarked, he takes to be a general, necessary feature of abstract science.

Third, it is this conception of abstract political economy – and, of course, the conception of the scope of the discipline that corresponds to it – that the various ‘historical schools’, which had meanwhile emerged, are uncompromisingly opposed to. For these schools, social life is an organic whole and Mill's position therefore reflects a misguided outlook. His viewpoint ought to be replaced with an ‘ethical’ standpoint and his methodology with empirical/historical investigation.

As Henry Sidgwick (1887 Sidgwick, H. (1887). Principles of Political Economy. 2nd ed. London: Macmillan and Co.
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: 5ff.) writes, when the last quarter of the nineteenth century began, disputes among economists had become so prominent in England as to reawaken an old disposition to distrust the discipline. At the same time, William Stanley Jevons was putting forward a somewhat revolutionary perspective on the subject – emphasising its connection with mathematics – whereas Cliffe Leslie was attacking the ‘Ricardian’ or a priori method and drawing attention to the criticisms of German historicists. When we contemplate the late classical period, in short, we discern a tendency for disputes to broaden into fundamental methodological controversies and for alternative perspectives to take shape, or in any case to appear more persuasive than they hitherto seemed. In addition to this, and further impairing the prestige of classical political economy, this period is marked by a widespread perception of distrust of, or downright hostility to, the liberal policies advocated by the classics, especially free trade.44 See e.g. Sidgwick (1887 Sidgwick, H. (1887). Principles of Political Economy. 2nd ed. London: Macmillan and Co.
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: 6–7); or Bagehot (1885 Bagehot, W. (1885). The Postulates of English Political Economy (with a preface by Alfred Marshall). New York and London: G. P. Putnam's Sons (first published in the Fortnightly Review in 1876).
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: 5), who notes that English political economy is so unpopular out of England because ‘[i]t is known everywhere as the theory of ‘Free-trade,’ and out of England free-trade is almost everywhere unpopular … The Protectionist creed rises like a weed in every soil’.
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The historians of economic thought that we want to focus on write in this period of turmoil. We presently turn our attention to their attempts to make sense of it and to offer a glimpse of the economics of the future.5
 楼主| 发表于 2017-9-7 08:30:07 | 显示全部楼层
3. Three histories of political economy

3.1 Preliminary comments

Historical remarks on, and the elaboration of bibliographies of, political economy are of course as old as the discipline itself. However, nineteenth-century histories of economic thought are a new type of literature, in content as well as in spirit (see Howey 1982 Howey, R.S. (1982). A Bibliography of General Histories of Economics 1692–1975. Lawrence: The Regent Press of Kansas.
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; Etner 2006) Etner, F. (2006). Les Historiens de la Pensée économique. Paris: Economica.
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. As Craufurd Goodwin (2008) Goodwin, C.D. (2008). History of economic thought. In S.N. Durlauf and L.E. Blume (Eds.), The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics. 2nd ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Available at http://www.dictionaryofeconomics.com/article?id=pde2008_ H000174&edition=current&q=history&topicid=&result_number=5
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argues, earlier histories are related to ‘cartography and doctrinal cleansing’ strategies, seeking to secure a young science by separating expert and amateur economists. Later histories, in turn, are more inclusive regarding timeline and nationality, and also more concerned with methodological matters: as is usually the case, methodological concerns become more prominent when a field has already grown into an established science (see e.g. Schumpeter 1954 Schumpeter, J.A. (1954). History of Economic Analysis. Edited by E.B. Schumpeter. Reprinted in 1994. London and New York: Routledge.
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: 534). The purpose of later histories, in short, is to offer a cosmopolitan overview of the discipline and, simultaneously, an introduction to its nature, essential results, evolution, and likely prospects.

In the 1870s, histories able to perform these new functions were easier to find in continental Europe than in Britain, for McCulloch's (1824 McCulloch, J.R. (1824). A Discourse on the Rise, Progress, Peculiar Objects and Importance of Political Economy. 2nd ed. (corrected and enlarged). Edinburgh: Archibald Constable & Co.
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, 1845) McCulloch, J.R. (1845). The Literature of Political Economy. London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans.
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essays and Twiss’ (1847) Twiss, T. (1847). View of the Progress of Political Economy in Europe since the Sixteenth Century (A Course of Lectures delivered before the University of Oxford in Michaelmas Term, 1846, and Lent Term, 1847). London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans.
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book were by then outdated. This is probably one of the reasons why Jevons decided to sponsor the translation of the second edition (1878) of the 1876 Guida allo Studio dell’Economia Politica, by Luigi Cossa, an eminent professor of political economy in Pavia.66 Mosca (2005) Mosca, M. (2005). De Viti de Marco, historian of economic analysis. The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, 12: 241–59.
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and Collison Black (1992) Collison Black, R.D. (1992). Attempts by Jevons and Walras to Publicise Each Other's Work. Revue Européenne des Sciences Sociales, 30, Editing Economists and Economists as Editors: 109–29.
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note the strategic exchange of translations between Jevons and Cossa, who translated Jevons’ Theory of Political Economy into Italian. The success of the Guida led Cossa to rewrite and expand it. In 1892 he published Introduzione allo studio dell’economia politica which, being more than twice the length of the Guida, cannot really be regarded as the same book, and which was (see Howey 1982) Howey, R.S. (1982). A Bibliography of General Histories of Economics 1692–1975. Lawrence: The Regent Press of Kansas.
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translated into Spanish, English and French. We have privileged the Guida's translation, both because the argument in the Introduzione, though vastly expanded, is similar and because its English translation seems unreliable (see footnote 12 in this paper).
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In the second edition of his Theory of Political Economy, Jevons remarks that Cossa's work ‘is well qualified to open our eyes as to the insular narrowness of our economic learning. It is a book of a kind much needed by our students of Economics’ (Jevons 1879 Jevons, W.S. (1879). The Theory of Political Economy. 2nd ed. (revised and enlarged, with new preface and appendices). London: Macmillan and Co.
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: xlvi). This argument is reiterated in the preface to the 1880 translation of Cossa, where Jevons states that

[t]o a reader fairly acquainted with the English Literature of Political Economy it will be evident why this translation of an Italian text-book has been undertaken. The sufficient reason is that no introduction to the study of Economics at all approaching in character to Professor Cossa's Guida allo Studio dell’ Economia Politica is to be found in the English tongue. This work presents, in a compendious form, not only a general view of the bounds, divisions, and relations of the science, marked by great impartiality and breadth of treatment, but it also furnishes us with an historical sketch of the science, such as must be wholly new to English readers … The survey of the foreign literature of the subject given in this Guide will enable the English student to fix the bearings of the point of knowledge which he has reached, and to estimate the fraction of the ocean of economic literature which he has been able to traverse. (Cossa 1880 Cossa, L. (1880). Guide to the Study of Political Economy (translated from the 2nd (1878) Italian edition, with a Preface by W. Stanley Jevons, F.R.S.). London: Macmillan and Co. (first published in 1876 as Guida allo studio dell’ economia politica).
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: vii–viii)

Much later, a not dissimilar argument is used by James Bonar in support of the translation of Histoire des doctrines économiques depuis les Physiocrates jusqu’à nos jours. This history, originally published in 1909 and with a second edition in 1913, was co-written by Charles Gide, a renowned professor of social economy and of the history of political economy in Bordeaux (from 1874), Montpellier (from 1880), and Paris (from 1898), and by Charles Rist, Gide's successor in Montpellier. By then, English histories were available, yet some continued to believe that there was a need for a work less partisan and/or more inclusive than British authors had produced.77 Bonar (1911 Bonar, J. (1911). Histoire des doctrines économiques depuis les Physiocrates jusqu’à nos jours by Charles Gide; Charles Rist. American Economic Review, 1: 306–9.
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: 309) pleads for a translation of Gide and Rist's Histoire by arguing that: ‘Ingram's was partisan and is already obsolete; Mr. L. L. Price, Professor Ashley and Dr Cannan do not profess to cover the whole ground. Besides, much of the scientific achievement has been English and American, and a foreign historian may well be thought to see the whole more easily in perspective than one of our own people.’ See also the prefatory note, by R. Richards, to Gide and Rist (1915 Gide, C. and Rist, C. (1915). A History of Economic Doctrines from the Time of the Physiocrats to the Present Day (authorised translation from the 2nd revised and augmented edition of 1913). London: George G. Harrap & Company (first published in 1909 as Histoire des doctrines économiques depuis les Physiocrates jusqu’à nos jours).
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: v).
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Gide and Rist's book was praised precisely for its balanced and inclusive perspective (see Price 1909 Price, L.L. (1909). Cours d’économie politique by Charles Gide; histoire des doctrines économiques depuis les Physiocrates jusqu’à nos jours by Charles Gide; Charles Rist. The Economic Journal, 19: 416–22.
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; Johnson 1911) Johnson, A.S. (1911). Histoire des doctrines économiques depuis les Physiocrates jusqu’à nos jours by Charles Gide; Charles Rist. Journal of Political Economy, 19: 242–4.
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.
 楼主| 发表于 2017-9-7 08:30:26 | 显示全部楼层
Cossa (1880) Cossa, L. (1880). Guide to the Study of Political Economy (translated from the 2nd (1878) Italian edition, with a Preface by W. Stanley Jevons, F.R.S.). London: Macmillan and Co. (first published in 1876 as Guida allo studio dell’ economia politica).
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and Gide and Rist (1915) Gide, C. and Rist, C. (1915). A History of Economic Doctrines from the Time of the Physiocrats to the Present Day (authorised translation from the 2nd revised and augmented edition of 1913). London: George G. Harrap & Company (first published in 1909 as Histoire des doctrines économiques depuis les Physiocrates jusqu’à nos jours).
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, in short, are histories that were judged important enough to deserve an English translation sponsored by eminent economists.88 Apparently, no translation of a German history was commissioned in Britain. In the USA, however, Gustav Cohn's 1885 essay – part of his System der Nationalökonomie – was translated in 1894. In the foreword to this translation, Edmund J. James writes that ‘the field [is] still fairly open to the scholar who will undertake to give us a comprehensive treatise on the subject, and English literature is still far behind the German, for example, in this respect’ (Cohn 1894 Cohn, G. (1894). A History of Political Economy (translated by Dr. Joseph Adna Hill. With an Introductory Note by Edmund J. James). Philadelphia, PA: American Academy of Political and Social Science.
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: 5).
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To join them as a representative of this period in the British intellectual scene, we have chosen John Kells Ingram's 1888 A History of Political Economy, in its 1915 edition (which includes an introduction by Richard T. Ely and a supplementary chapter by William A. Scott).99 Of course, the selected histories are important beyond the British context. According to Howey (1982) Howey, R.S. (1982). A Bibliography of General Histories of Economics 1692–1975. Lawrence: The Regent Press of Kansas.
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, Cossa's Guida was also translated into Spanish and German; Gide and Rist's Histoire was translated into 11 languages (and there are three translations into German); and Ingram's history into 12 languages (there are two translations into German and into Russian).
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This history is an outgrowth of an entry written for the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1885), for which Ingram's choice had been sponsored by the evidently very active Jevons. Though obviously partisan, Ingram's book has a ‘continental’, wide scope. Ingram was a distinguished professor – of oratory, English literature, and Greek, but not of political economy – in Trinity College, Dublin (see Barrett 1999 Barrett, S.D. (1999). Paper N°. 99/9. Trinity Economic Paper Series.

; Howey 1982 Howey, R.S. (1982). A Bibliography of General Histories of Economics 1692–1975. Lawrence: The Regent Press of Kansas.
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: 48–9).

The choice of these three histories is also justified by the fact that, prima facie, they would seem to represent very different doctrinal perspectives. Cossa is often argued to waver between historicism and the marginalist school (see e.g. Faucci 1984 Faucci, R. (1984). Cossa, Luigi. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani: Volume 30. Available at http://www.treccani.it/biografie/

; Mosca 2005) Mosca, M. (2005). De Viti de Marco, historian of economic analysis. The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, 12: 241–59.
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, but his Guida was written at a time where the latter school had barely emerged. Ingram's volume is a self-consciously Comtean, partisan as well as ‘exogenous’ approach to the history of political economy – a book which, Schumpeter (1954 Schumpeter, J.A. (1954). History of Economic Analysis. Edited by E.B. Schumpeter. Reprinted in 1994. London and New York: Routledge.
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: 823, footnote 23) submits, ‘is conclusive proof both of [Ingram's] wide philosophical … and historical erudition and his inadequate command of technical economics’, and Gide – widely taken as the leading partner in his book with Rist (see e.g. Price 1909) Price, L.L. (1909). Cours d’économie politique by Charles Gide; histoire des doctrines économiques depuis les Physiocrates jusqu’à nos jours by Charles Gide; Charles Rist. The Economic Journal, 19: 416–22.
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– is an open supporter of the French co-operative movement and of solidarism.10
 楼主| 发表于 2017-9-7 08:31:30 | 显示全部楼层
3.2 Luigi Cossa

Cossa's Guida has two parts, which reflect the author's pedagogical concerns. The first part offers a concise discussion of the definition and divisions of political economy, its relations to other sciences, and its method. The second part is a reasoned bibliography of political economy, from classical antiquity to the historical school, covering several countries (Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, and Italy) but conspicuously omitting Marx.1111 The 1892 Introduzione also covers Austria, Scandinavia, the Slavic countries, the Magyar countries and the United States. In this book, Marx is discussed.
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Cossa is very sympathetic to the tradition of political economy and confident in its progress. He defines political economy as ‘the science of the social ordering of wealth, that which examines its general laws in order to derive from them guiding principles’ (Cossa 1880 Cossa, L. (1880). Guide to the Study of Political Economy (translated from the 2nd (1878) Italian edition, with a Preface by W. Stanley Jevons, F.R.S.). London: Macmillan and Co. (first published in 1876 as Guida allo studio dell’ economia politica).
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: 2). This science represents a narrower field, but also a particular mode of regarding an object which is, in part, common to all the social sciences (see ibid.: 4).

Political economy is said to comprehend two fields of inquiry: an economic science, in the strict sense of the word, pure, rational, or abstract political economy, the immediate aim of which is purely speculative (see ibid.: 11) and which includes ‘the explanation of economic phenomena and the examination of their causes and laws’, and an economic art, applied political economy, ‘which from the knowledge of those natural laws deduces guiding principles for practice’ (ibid.: 6).1212 The distinction of two parts in political economy – pure (or reasoned, or theoretical) economics and applied (or practical) economics, the former a science in the strictest sense and the latter an art – remains in Cossa's Introduzione (1892). However, he also uses the term ‘social economics’ to designate the reasoned part [‘L’Economia Sociale (o come altri dicono civile, nazionale, o l’economia senz’altro), cioè l’economia pura nel senso da noi adottato’ (Cossa 1892 Cossa, L. (1892). Introduzione allo studio dell’ economia politica (3.a edizione interamente rifatta della Guida allo studio dell’economia politica). Milano: Ulrico Hoepli, Editore-Librajo della Real Casa.
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: 20)]. The English translation unfortunately misrepresents Cossa's terminology, as a comparison with the Italian original, or the French edition (Cossa 1899) Cossa, L. (1899). Histoire des Doctrines économiques (Avec une préface de A. Deschamps). Paris: V. Giard & E. Brière.
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, shows. Consider the following two passages, which are obviously contradictory but only because of mistranslations in the second: ‘Social economics is … a science most strictly so called, because it exists to explain certain phenomena without in the least undertaking, as a science, to find the best means for producing useful modifications of them’ (Cossa 1893 Cossa, L. (1893). An Introduction to the Study of Political Economy (revised by the author and translated from the Italian by Louis Dyer, M.A. Balliol College). London and New York: Macmillan and Co.
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: 48); and ‘By this time it must be plain that social economics no less than political economy absolutely cries out for a sharp line of distinction, which absolutely must be drawn to separate them [in the original this reads: “Dal sin qui detto deriva essere sommamente desiderabile, tanto nell’interesse dell’economia sociale quanto in quello della politica economica, che se ne faccia una trattazione allato distinta …” (Cossa 1892 Cossa, L. (1892). Introduzione allo studio dell’ economia politica (3.a edizione interamente rifatta della Guida allo studio dell’economia politica). Milano: Ulrico Hoepli, Editore-Librajo della Real Casa.
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: 66), – i.e. “economic policy” is mistranslated as “political economy”]. They are formally opposed to each other, and have their respective and well-marked criteria. Political economy [should be “social economics” (see Cossa 1892 Cossa, L. (1892). Introduzione allo studio dell’ economia politica (3.a edizione interamente rifatta della Guida allo studio dell’economia politica). Milano: Ulrico Hoepli, Editore-Librajo della Real Casa.
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: 66)], being a science, must defend its universal character and maintain strictly its independence of any and every practical purpose, while its truths must once and for ever renounce all claims to immediate and universal application. Social economics [should be “economic policy” (see Cossa 1892 Cossa, L. (1892). Introduzione allo studio dell’ economia politica (3.a edizione interamente rifatta della Guida allo studio dell’economia politica). Milano: Ulrico Hoepli, Editore-Librajo della Real Casa.
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: 66)] being an art must preserve its connection with the various sciences that supply it with rules to work by; from these it must formulate precepts which shall be adapted to circumstances, and sufficiently elastic to suit varying cases.’ (Cossa 1893 Cossa, L. (1893). An Introduction to the Study of Political Economy (revised by the author and translated from the Italian by Louis Dyer, M.A. Balliol College). London and New York: Macmillan and Co.
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: 57)
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Natural laws are ‘natural’ because they are not the result of human intervention even if, unlike physical laws, they have a psychological character (see ibid.: 7).

When discussing the method of political economy, Cossa submits that the most important and difficult points of abstract political economy – like the theories of value, rent, and population – ‘are without doubt discovered by the deductive method, starting from a few premises’ (ibid.: 38). These premises – individual self-interest, for instance – are ‘certain, either because they are intuitive or because they may be directly and strictly proved’ (ibid.: 40), and this, Cossa argues, renders political economy even more of a positive science than mathematics or physics.1313 Cossa (1893 Cossa, L. (1893). An Introduction to the Study of Political Economy (revised by the author and translated from the Italian by Louis Dyer, M.A. Balliol College). London and New York: Macmillan and Co.
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: 75) writes: ‘We rightly conclude that social economics is just as positive as many a physical science whose premises are models of laborious induction, and just as exact as pure Mathematics with all its axioms and hypothetical definitions.’
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However, as in physics, premises are incomplete and insufficient with regard to actual phenomena: individual self-interest is not the only human motive. Accordingly,

[d]eductions lead us to conclusions which are scientifically true, and which assume the character of laws. These laws, however, have a hypothetical character because they express the tendency of certain causes to produce given effects on condition of the absence of certain other causes. (ibid.: 40–1)

While the status of abstract political economy is, in a sense, similar to that of physics – although there is no analogue to experiments in political economy (see ibid.: 43) – Cossa believes that political economy ‘will never be an exact science in the sense of being able to present in all its departments subjects fitted for mathematical calculation’ (ibid.: 44). Nevertheless, mathematics is useful when handling exact quantities, even if it has not led to the discovery of any important theory (see ibid.: 44–6).1414 This is one of the points on which Cossa changed his mind: in Cossa (1893 Cossa, L. (1893). An Introduction to the Study of Political Economy (revised by the author and translated from the Italian by Louis Dyer, M.A. Balliol College). London and New York: Macmillan and Co.
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: 90–1) he writes that the mathematical method can lead, and has led, to discovery.
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Cossa goes on to argue that an examination of the main objections to political economy exposes their absurdity (see ibid.: 57). Against the objection that phenomena so variable as those with which political economy is concerned cannot have constant laws – so that political economy cannot exist as a science – he states that certain causes repeatedly produce the same effects. To the objection that political economy does not exist as a science but is instead marked by unsolved problems and unsettled disputes, e.g. on the merits of hypotheses or abstractions, he replies:

hypotheses, when they are not arbitrary, may be the instruments of most valuable scientific discoveries … For the rest the history of the physical and mathematical sciences teaches us that, though they are truly called positive sciences, many of their theorems rest upon purely hypothetical bases, and many which were once held to be axioms are now called in question. If we have no abstractions, no analyses, no formation of genera and species, but content ourselves with the mere verification of individual cases, we can have no science, but only a barren empiricism … Further, that reasoning is obviously absurd which would argue the non-existence of political economy from the fact of the interminable controversies of its students. It ought especially to be considered: 1. That such disputes refer for the most part not to the pure science but to its applications … 4. That we must not charge political economy with the unreasonableness of some incompetent writers who insist upon calling in question truths which have long since been clearly proved. (ibid.: 59–60)

The gist of the argument seems clear. There is a pure political economy which, when competently interpreted, ought to be uncontroversial. This is the common ground on which economists can and should agree. Many disputes between them are avoidable: either they are the result of incompetence or they concern applications of the pure science and the economists’ different political views. There exists, in other words, an ongoing confusion between theory and policy which, however, does not imply the non-existence of a reliable science.

This means that the nature of pure political economy is often misunderstood, and it is this misunderstanding which lies at the origin of critiques like those of the German historical school. Thus, Wilhelm Roscher's reasonable criticism of those ‘who think that the results of their abstract speculations can be directly applied, without taking the circumstances of time and place into consideration’ (ibid.: 193) becomes unreasonable if it denies the existence of general economic laws or their importance:

These so-called professorial socialists had no difficulty in overcoming the arguments of certain weak economists who wished to reproduce in Germany the doctrines of Bastiat, and of liberalism at any price. Consequently, they deceived themselves as to the originality and importance of their discoveries. They confounded economics with morals and law, under pretext of better harmonizing their results. They did not distinguish theories, which are for the most part general, from applications, which are always contingent. They, and especially Brentano, exaggerated the importance of induction. For the gradual and peaceful evolution of political economy they wished to substitute a revolution, which they justified by an undeservedly severe condemnation of the defects and errors of the classical economists, and especially those of England and France. They started from the false supposition that the scientific progress of other nations at the present time is almost nothing in comparison with the acquisitions of the science in Germany. (ibid.: 197–8)

In sum, in Cossa's estimation, and against the German professors, pure political economy is a science in the same sense as physics and with a similar structure of explanation. He notes that ‘[w]e cannot conceive of an economic science … without the idea of the existence of natural laws governing the phenomena of social wealth’ (ibid.: 86). These natural laws are not, or not always, empirically manifest and yet they are not fictions. ‘Pure political economy does not invent but merely describes the action of economic laws and their causes’ (ibid.: 67); it ‘does not occupy itself with that which is nor with that which ought to be, but rather with that which is constant and necessary’ (ibid.: 71).
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3.3 John Kells Ingram

Like Cossa's book, Ingram's A History of Political Economy covers several countries (Britain, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, and Germany) and the period from antiquity to the historical school, albeit with some omissions.1515 Marx is not discussed, and neither is socialism in general. The 1915 edition of Ingram's book, as remarked, contains a new chapter, by William A. Scott, covering the early Austrians as well as other developments in Germany, Britain, the United States, France, and Italy.
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Indeed, it explores this literature at far greater length. Unlike Cossa, though, Ingram does not provide a discussion of the nature and method of political economy from the outset. In his view, political economy is in a transitional stage and ‘the new body of thought which will replace, or at least profoundly modify, the old, has not yet been fully elaborated’, and, in this context, the appropriate attitude is ‘tracing historically, and from a general point of view, the course of speculation regarding economic phenomena, and contemplating the successive forms of opinion concerning them in relation to the periods at which they were respectively evolved’ (Ingram 1915 Ingram, J.K. (1915). A History of Political Economy. 2nd ed. (with a new preface by Richard T. Ely and a supplementary chapter by William A. Scott). Edinburgh: Adam & Charles Black (first published in 1888).
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: 1).

This position is combined with a very critical attitude towards the tradition of political economy. For Ingram, it is to the ‘new’, or historical, school that the future belongs, and, in England especially, he thinks that there are reasons to expect that this school will soon displace its antagonist (see ibid.: 217). The failure of the ‘old’ school is argued to derive from the separation of political economy from the other social sciences and, relatedly, from its abuse of abstraction and deduction. A science built deductively on assumptions that are unreal, unsound, one-sided, or, at best, hold only within very narrow limits of time and space Ingram qualifies as a priori and purely hypothetical:

Cairnes maintains the utmost rigour of the deductive method; he distinctly affirms that in political economy there is no room for induction at all … [He] holds that, as they ‘are not assertions respecting the character or sequence of phenomena’ (though what else can a scientific law be?), ‘[laws] can neither be established nor refuted by statistical or documentary evidence’ … whilst Ricardo had never doubted that in all his reasonings he was dealing with human beings as they actually exist, [Mill and Cairnes] showed that the science, as he conceived it, must be regarded as a purely hypothetical one. Its deductions are based on unreal, or at least one-sided assumptions. (ibid.: 151–2)

[T]he traditional system of political economy … rested on certain fundamental assumptions, which, instead of being universally true in fact, were only realised within very narrow limits of time and space … Mill and Cairnes had already shown that the science they taught was a hypothetic one, in the sense that it dealt not with real but with imaginary men – ‘economic men’ who were conceived as ‘money-making animals’. But Bagehot … showed … that the world in which these men were supposed to act is also ‘a very limited and peculiar world’. What marks off this special world … is the promptness of transfer of capital and labour from one employment to the other. (ibid.: 218–9)

According to Ingram, deduction from hypothesis may be regarded as ‘a useful occasional logical artifice’ but never as ‘the main form of method’ (ibid.: 221), and the application of mathematics to economics – sought by those, like Jevons, who understand by ‘theory’ the ‘old’ a priori mode of proceeding – will produce nothing but ‘academic playthings’ and risks restoring ‘metaphysical’ ideas and expressions (see ibid.: 227–8).1616 Discussing Cournot, Ingram (ibid.: 177) adds: ‘[T]he great objection to the use of mathematics in economic reasoning is that it is necessarily sterile. If we examine the attempts which have been made to employ it, we shall find that the fundamental conceptions on which the deductions are made to rest are vague, indeed metaphysical, in their character. Units of animal or moral satisfaction, of utility, and the like, are as foreign to positive science as a unit of dormitive faculty would be; and a unit of value, unless we understand by value the quantity of one commodity exchangeable under given conditions for another, is an equally indefinite idea.’
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In lieu of the misguided approach of the ‘old’ school, Ingram subscribes to Auguste Comte's conception of a unified sociology, including a dynamic as well as a static theory of society, of which political economy is a branch. This sociology is ‘pervaded by moral ideas, by notions of social duty, as opposed to the individual rights which were derived as corollaries from the jus naturae’ (ibid.: 191).

Ingram further notes that ‘no rational theory of the economic organs and functions of society can be constructed if they are considered as isolated from the rest’ (ibid.: 194):

a separate economic science is, strictly speaking, an impossibility, as representing only one portion of a complex organism, all whose parts and their actions are in a constant relation of correspondence and reciprocal modification. Hence, too, it will follow that, whatever useful indications may be derived from our general knowledge of individual human nature, the economic structure of society and its development cannot be deductively foreseen, but must be ascertained by direct historical investigation. (ibid.)

It is therefore an error to contrast the historical with the theoretical method and to attempt to preserve the ‘old’ a priori mode of reasoning alongside the historical (see ibid.: 227). The conception of an absolute, universally valid system ought to be replaced by the conception of a succession of systems, where this succession, however, is not arbitrary. There are laws of social coexistence as well as laws of movement; but neither type of laws can be deduced independently of direct observation (see ibid.: 193).

Thus, some authors of the German historical school go too far when they reject the existence of economic laws altogether: ‘why the name of natural laws should be denied to such constant relations of coexistence and succession’, Ingram writes, ‘is not easy to see. These laws, being universal, admit of the construction of an abstract theory of economic development; whilst a part of the German historical school tends to substitute for such a theory a mere description’ (ibid.: 200). Deduction, to repeat, is legitimate when it sets out from ‘proved generalisations’ instead of a priori assumptions (see ibid.: 207).

For Ingram, in short, ‘the old school’ must be displaced because of its inadequate practical advice – because of its ‘doctrinal’ failure – which is a consequence of an inappropriate methodology. Its ‘doctrines’ have lost support: a more intervening and ethically engaged State is required. Discussing the Younger historical school, Ingram highlights the need to accentuate the moral element and the conception of the State as ‘an organ of the nation for all ends which cannot be adequately effected by voluntary individual effort’ (ibid.: 203). He writes that the individual point of view must be subordinated to the social (see ibid.: 297).

Accordingly, he is unwilling to isolate theory from ‘doctrine’. However, he is aware that a close relation between science and political practice ‘tends to give a real and positive character to theoretic inquiry; but it may also be expected to produce exaggerations in doctrine, to lend undue prominence to particular sides of the truth, and to make transitory situations or temporary expedients be regarded as universally normal conditions’ (ibid.: 3).
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3.4 Charles Gide and Charles Rist

Charles Gide and Charles Rist's A History of Economic Doctrines from the Time of the Physiocrats to the Present Day starts in the late-eighteenth century and discusses early-twentieth-century developments. Unlike Cossa's or Ingram's, the book is organised by doctrines, without distinguishing countries. The conception of an ongoing struggle between individualism and socialism is the principle which structures the exposition. Authors are arranged according to the period where they belong and as a function of their position in that struggle: the Founders and their Adversaries; Liberalism and its Dissidents. That position, in turn, is connected with contrasting conceptions of the subject and its methodology, which are gradually superseded as the discipline evolves. The concluding analysis of recent doctrines underlines the emergence of a sort of consensus: the ‘discovery of some common ground upon which all economists, whatever their social and political aspirations, can meet. This common ground is the domain of economic science’ (Gide and Rist 1915 Gide, C. and Rist, C. (1915). A History of Economic Doctrines from the Time of the Physiocrats to the Present Day (authorised translation from the 2nd revised and augmented edition of 1913). London: George G. Harrap & Company (first published in 1909 as Histoire des doctrines économiques depuis les Physiocrates jusqu’à nos jours).
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: 644):

Liberals, Communists, Interventionists, State and Christian Socialists continue to preach their differing ideals and to advocate different methods of procedure. On the question of the science itself, however, they are all united. The arguments upon which they base their contentions are largely borrowed from sources other than scientific … The earlier half of the nineteenth century witnessed the science of political economy making common cause with one particular doctrine, namely Liberalism. The alliance proved most unfortunate. The time when economic doctrines were expected to lend support to some given policy is for ever gone by … In the domain of practice the variety of economic ideals and the conflict between them is likely to continue. (ibid.: 646–7)

In Gide and Rist's account, the mid-nineteenth century was marked by rising dissatisfaction with liberalism and bourgeois complacency, and indeed with the very conception of a theoretical political economy.1717 ‘But just when Liberalism seemed most triumphant and the principles of the science appeared definitely settled there sprang up a feeling of general dissatisfaction … [The Historical school] demanded new contact with life – with the life of the past no less than that of the present. It was weary of the empty framework of general terms. It was athirst for facts and the exercise of the powers of observation … But there was one thing which was thought more objectionable than even the Classical doctrine itself, and that was the Liberal policy with which the science had foolishly become implicated … . In addition to such critics as the above there are also the writers who drew their inspiration from Christianity … . Intervention again, so tentatively proposed by Sismondi, makes a bold demand for wider scope in view of the pressure of social problems, and under the name of State Socialism becomes a definitely formulated doctrine.’ (ibid.: 377)
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A renewal of classical economics was imperative, and it entailed that all connections with practical politics had to be severed (see ibid.: 378). As developed by the immediate successors of Ricardo and Say – McCulloch, Senior and others – political economy thus ended up as ‘a small number of quite obvious truths, having only the remotest connection with economic life” (ibid.: 379). The gap between classical theory and reality could conceivably be solved in two ways: by formulating a ‘more harmonious and more comprehensive theory’ (ibid.: 380), which is what Jevons, Carl Menger, and Léon Walras attempted; or by rejecting abstract theory altogether, as the historical school advocated.

In Gide and Rist's view, the criticisms of the latter school are flawed when applied to the pure political economy of the marginalist authors but also in the case of Mill. It is true that economic laws are provisional – in the sense that new facts continually emerge, of which existing theories do not take account – and conditional – in the sense that they are only true if other circumstances do not counteract them (see ibid.: 391). However, this is not enough to separate the laws of economics from chemical or physical laws:

All these laws are provisional. They are also hypothetical in the sense that they are true only in the absence of any disturbing cause. Scientists no longer consider these laws as inherent in matter. They are the product of man's thought and they advance with the development of his intelligence. They are nothing more or less than formulae which conveniently express the relation of dependence that exists between different phenomena. (ibid.)

Moreover,

[e]ven the Hedonists, whose economics rest upon a calculus of pleasure and pain, are careful to note that their hypothesis is just a useful simplification of concrete reality, and that such simplification is absolutely necessary in order to carry the analysis of economic phenomena as far as possible. It is an abstraction – imposed by necessity, which is its sole justification, but an abstraction nevertheless … To isolate a whole class of motives with a view to a separate examination of their effects is not to deny either the presence or the action of other motives, any more than a study of the effect of gravitation upon a solid involves the denial of the action of other forces upon it. In a science like political economy, where experiment is practically impossible, abstraction and analysis afford the only means of escape from those other influences which complicate the problems so much. (ibid.: 395–6)

For Gide and Rist, then, the marginalist approach matches the approach in other sciences, and the marginalist authors are aware of the gap between their theories and reality. Nevertheless, these theories are at least important stepping stones:

We may laugh as much as we like at the homo oeconomicus, who is by this time little better than a skeleton, but it is the skeleton that has helped the science to stand upright and make progress … Somebody has remarked that mathematics is a mere mill that grinds whatever is brought to it. The important question is, What is the corn like? In this case it consists of a mass of abstractions – a number of individuals actuated by the same selfish motives, alike in what they desire to get and are willing to give, the assumed ubiquity of capital and labour, facility for substitution, etc. It is possible enough that the flour coming from the mill may not prove very nutritious. When ground out the result would at any rate be as unlike reality as the new society outlined by Fourier, the Saint-Simonians, or the anarchists, and its realisation quite as improbable, unless we presuppose an equally miraculous revolution. The Hedonists frankly recognise this, and in this respect they show themselves superior to the Classical economists, who when they talk of free competition believe that it actually exists. (ibid.: 543–4)

In sum, Gide and Rist acknowledge that concrete economic life can most certainly not be captured by a ‘mechanical view’. History certainly has the right to demand a place beside economic science (see ibid.: 406). However, it would be wrong to think that it can replace it, for description is only a first step. As Aristotle has taught us, the aim of science is to offer generalisation, not an ‘exact, realistic picture of society, as the Historians loved to think’ (ibid.: 401): science must be explanatory.
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4. Critical comments

Gide and Rist (1915) Gide, C. and Rist, C. (1915). A History of Economic Doctrines from the Time of the Physiocrats to the Present Day (authorised translation from the 2nd revised and augmented edition of 1913). London: George G. Harrap & Company (first published in 1909 as Histoire des doctrines économiques depuis les Physiocrates jusqu’à nos jours).
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observe that the mid-nineteenth century was marked by an hostility towards liberalism and, by implication, classical political economy. The link between economic theory and political recommendations – a link which had been forged too hastily – had to be severed. ‘Abstract’ political economy thus became a system with only the remotest connection with economic life. From here, economics could conceivably evolve in two directions. The first was to reject the notion of ‘abstract’ political economy, at least as it existed, as irrelevant, and restore the connection between economics and the other social sciences, and between economics and real life. The second was to accept the conception of a ‘pure’, ‘abstract’ economics – aiming at ideologically neutral knowledge, as any other ‘pure’ science – while seeking to develop its theoretical coherence.

Cossa (1880) Cossa, L. (1880). Guide to the Study of Political Economy (translated from the 2nd (1878) Italian edition, with a Preface by W. Stanley Jevons, F.R.S.). London: Macmillan and Co. (first published in 1876 as Guida allo studio dell’ economia politica).
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and Gide and Rist (1915) Gide, C. and Rist, C. (1915). A History of Economic Doctrines from the Time of the Physiocrats to the Present Day (authorised translation from the 2nd revised and augmented edition of 1913). London: George G. Harrap & Company (first published in 1909 as Histoire des doctrines économiques depuis les Physiocrates jusqu’à nos jours).
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endorse this second direction. They attempt to show that economic science can, and should, be separated from liberalism – and from any alternative to liberalism as well. Its ‘pure’ core, they propose, has no connection with the ethical or socio-philosophical positions of economists or with practical policies. Ingram (1915) Ingram, J.K. (1915). A History of Political Economy. 2nd ed. (with a new preface by Richard T. Ely and a supplementary chapter by William A. Scott). Edinburgh: Adam & Charles Black (first published in 1888).
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, in turn, regards classical orthodoxy as a product of an unsound procedure and an outdated liberalism, and argues for a comprehensive reconstruction of political economy, where the individual point of view is subordinated to the social and the moral element accentuated. The economics of the future is to remain political economy, albeit of a new kind.

Writing earlier than the others, Cossa basically defends a conception of ‘abstract’ political economy quite close to Mill's: from incomplete but useful premises, ‘abstract’ political economy deduces laws, which express the tendency of certain causes to produce certain effects when no other causes interfere. Gide and Rist go somewhat further: their view seems closer to Schumpeter's ‘modern view’ of theory as a mere instrument (see Schumpeter 1908 Schumpeter, J.A. (1908). Das Wesen und der Hauptinhalt der theoretischen Nationalökonomie. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot.
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, 1954) Schumpeter, J.A. (1954). History of Economic Analysis. Edited by E.B. Schumpeter. Reprinted in 1994. London and New York: Routledge.
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. As they put it, in economics as in natural science, laws are ‘nothing more or less than formulae which conveniently express the relation of dependence that exists between different phenomena’ (Gide and Rist 1915 Gide, C. and Rist, C. (1915). A History of Economic Doctrines from the Time of the Physiocrats to the Present Day (authorised translation from the 2nd revised and augmented edition of 1913). London: George G. Harrap & Company (first published in 1909 as Histoire des doctrines économiques depuis les Physiocrates jusqu’à nos jours).
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: 391). Correspondingly, Gide and Rist also seem less confident than Cossa regarding what economics has achieved and can achieve, underlining that the world which ‘pure’ theory supposes is unlike reality.

In any case – whether realist or instrumentalist – Cossa, and Gide and Rist share a ‘deductivist’ (see Lawson 1997 Lawson, T. (1997). Economics and Reality. London and New York: Routledge.
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) conception of laws as (descriptions of) regularities of the ‘whenever event x, then event y’ type, whether x and y are empirically manifest or not. As in other sciences, laws are supposed to be obtained by deduction from certain convenient assumptions and have a hypothetical character.

A century or so later, this conception of laws is hardly persuasive, even if it is in accordance with contemporaneous – i.e. late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century – philosophy of science: do these hypothetical economic laws always operate, whether manifest or not, or are they at work only in the context which enables their formulation, i.e. under a ceteris paribus proviso? If the latter is the case, they cannot have the same status as the laws of natural science.1818 For a comprehensive discussion of why the deductivist conception is unconvincing, see Lawson (1997) Lawson, T. (1997). Economics and Reality. London and New York: Routledge.
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. If the laws of natural science were (descriptions of) regularities of the ‘whenever event x, then event y’ type, given that such regularities are typically restricted to experimental conditions, one would have to conclude that the ‘laws of nature’ depend on human intervention.
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Yet there is no evidence that this problem is clearly understood: Cossa, and Gide and Rist basically assume that laws have a similar methodological status in both domains.

To be sure, economics is argued to be more than ‘pure’ theory. Once again as in Schumpeter (1908 Schumpeter, J.A. (1908). Das Wesen und der Hauptinhalt der theoretischen Nationalökonomie. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot.
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, 1954) Schumpeter, J.A. (1954). History of Economic Analysis. Edited by E.B. Schumpeter. Reprinted in 1994. London and New York: Routledge.
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, there is a place for history, even if it is not clear how history and ‘pure’ theory precisely relate to one another. Accordingly, the Methodenstreit, and methodological disputes in general, is viewed as a waste of time: the importance of historical methods is universally accepted, yet the deductive nature of theory has likewise become uncontroversial. As Gide and Rist (1915 Gide, C. and Rist, C. (1915). A History of Economic Doctrines from the Time of the Physiocrats to the Present Day (authorised translation from the 2nd revised and augmented edition of 1913). London: George G. Harrap & Company (first published in 1909 as Histoire des doctrines économiques depuis les Physiocrates jusqu’à nos jours).
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: 397–8) observe:

There seems to be a general agreement among writers of different schools to consider the question of method of secondary importance, and to forget the futile controversies from which the science has gained so little … “Discussion of method,” says Pareto, “is a pure waste of time. The aim of the science is to discover economic uniformities, and it is always right to follow any path or to pursue any method that is likely to lead to that end.” … More remarkable still, perhaps, is the opinion of Bücher, an author to whom the Historical school is indebted for some of its most valuable contributions. “… the only method of investigation which will enable us to approach the complex causes of commercial phenomena is that of abstract isolation and logical deduction. The sole inductive process that can likewise be considered – namely, the statistical – is not sufficiently exact and penetrating for most of the problems that have to be handled here, and can be employed only to supplement or control.”

In short, the possibility of an economic science rests on ‘abstract isolation’ and deduction. A consensus among economists is possible if every connection with social philosophies or practical policies is removed from the scientific core of the discipline – which paves the way for the notion of (‘pure’) theory as a mere instrument – and if, simultaneously, economics is recognised as a wider field than ‘pure’ theory. For Gide and Rist, then, the evolution of economics leads to the gradual discovery of a common ground, acceptable to all.

Ingram, of course, takes a very different stance. He rejects the tradition of political economy and its abuse of ‘abstraction’, highlighting the organic nature of the social world. He rejects liberalism but he does not advocate a separation of theory and doctrine. Somewhat disconcertingly, though, he does not have an alternative to the a priori mode of proceeding that Cossa, and Gide and Rist stand for. He holds the same view regarding the structure of laws, or law-like statements, as the authors that he criticises. The difference is that he is a radical empiricist, for whom laws are assertions regarding the character or sequence of phenomena, ‘constant relations of coexistence or succession’ at the empirical level.1919 Ingram is perhaps too hasty in approximating the views of Comte to those of the German historical school. However, his conception of economic laws coincides, for instance, with Gustav von Schmoller's, whose empiricist conception of laws as regularities is formally equivalent to the ‘Ricardian’ conception that he rejects (see e.g. Dopfer 1993) Dopfer, K. (1993). On the significance of Gustav Schmoller's contribution to modern economics. History of Economic Ideas, 1: 143–78.
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His position, in other words, is that deductive formulations are satisfactory only if they start from ‘proved generalisations’ and avoid ‘metaphysical ideas and expressions’; otherwise, ‘abstraction’ is a device to surreptitiously bring in socio-philosophical positions which Ingram regards as unsound. A century later, this position seems a quite naïve version of the position that Ingram rejects, not least in supposing that empirical regularities of interest are out there to be identified.
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