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Full circle: economics from scholasticism through innovation and back into mathematical scholasticism: Reflections on a 1769 Price essay: “Why is it that economics so far has gained so few advantages from physics and mathematics?”

Erik S. Reinert (Norsk Investorforum & SUM – Centre for Development and the Environment, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway)

Journal of Economic Studies

ISSN: 0144-3585

Article publication date: 1 August 2000

Abstract

Through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, European science slowly lifted itself out of the fog of Mediaeval scholasticism. A rational, quantified and mechanised world picture emerged. In 1769 an essay questioned why economics benefited so little from the use of mathematics and quantification. Today the opposite may be argued – the increasing loss of relevance of economics is associated with the use of mathematics. Based on Francis Bacon’s criticism of scholasticism, it is argued here that strong parallels exist between the decay of scholasticism and the decay of modern economics. From being a science of practice, late neoclassical economics has degenerated into “working upon itself”, as Bacon says about late scholasticism. Since the 1769 essay, economics has come “full circle”. The problem for economics is not then mathematics per se – mathematics is just one language in which science may decay.

Keywords

Citation

Reinert, E.S. (2000), "Full circle: economics from scholasticism through innovation and back into mathematical scholasticism: Reflections on a 1769 Price essay: “Why is it that economics so far has gained so few advantages from physics and mathematics?”", Journal of Economic Studies, Vol. 27 No. 4/5, pp. 364-376. https://doi.org/10.1108/01443580010341862

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MCB UP Ltd

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