Can economics be founded on "indisputable facts of experience"? Lionel Robbins and the pioneers of neoclassical economics

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Abstract

Robbins argues that the fundamental propositions of microeconomic theory are deductions from the assumption that individuals act on consistent preferences; this ‘indisputable fact of experience’ does not need to be validated in controlled experiments. While recognising that some neoclassical pioneers based the theory on psychological hedonism, Robbins claims that his own approach of ‘pure theory’ belongs to a parallel and sounder tradition exemplified by Menger and Wicksteed. This paper argues that Robbins' methodological defence of pure theory is incoherent, and that his claim to find an intellectual lineage in the works of Menger and Wicksteed overlooks important discontinuities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)857-872
Number of pages16
JournalEconomica
Volume76
Issue numbers1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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