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Economic Institutions and the “Scientification” of Economics in the Mid-20th Century: US and France

May session of the YSI Online Seminar in History of Economic Thought

May 19, 2016 Download .ics

Online Webinar | 16:00 - 18:00 UTC (please check corresponding time at your location)

The webinar will contain young scholar presentations by Alexander Arnold and Camila Orozco Espinel. Richard Arena and Tiago Mata will discuss the papers followed by a general discussion.

You can access the papers by clicking on their titles below. To attend the session, click on “Join the webinar”.


Alexander Arnold , New York University

Beyond Physics Envy? Thinking Through the Relationship Between Economics and the Natural Sciences in Postwar France

This paper documents attempts made during the 1950s in France to understand the history of economic thought through tracing the development of its epistemic categories. During the period, thinkers from a wide range of fields and disciplines had debates about the status of economic truth and the relationship of economics to the natural sciences, on the one hand, and to the human sciences on the other. These debates were of particular urgency during the 1950s due to the drastic shifts within economic institutions––both educational and governmental––taking place during the period. Discussing their history not only helps explain the peculiar development of the Economics discipline in France. It also helps bring to light a fascinating but underappreciated chapter, not only of the history of economic thought in particular, but also of the wider history of relationship between epistemology and politics in postwar Europe.

Discussant: Richard Arena , Université de Nice Sofia-Antipolis


Camila Orozco Espinel , École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales

How Walras Made Room in the United States: Econometric Society and Cowles Commission Demarcation from Institutionalism (1930-1960)

The repertoire of what was considered scientific economics in the United-States went through profound transformation between 1930 and 1960. The constitution of the Econometric Society was one of the main catalyzers of this process. The paper analyses this key moment and follows it over the following 30 years in the context of the Cowles Commission. Rather than presenting the new repertoire – which is usually put under the umbrella labels like mainstream economics or neoclassical theory – as a single thing or a monolithic island, this paper stresses how its boundaries were drawn and redrawn, changed over the time, and how it frequently did so in ambiguous ways. Both the Econometric Society and the Cowles Commission played central parts in the formation and shifts in these boundaries. Because of the transcendence of Walras’s system for mainstream economics à la Cowles, this paper advances our understanding of its journey from Europe to the US.

Discussant: Tiago Mata , University College London



Full 2016 Program of the YSI Online Seminar in History of Economic Thought