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A century of methodological individualism part 1: Schumpeter and Menger

Denis, A. (2010). A century of methodological individualism part 1: Schumpeter and Menger (10/02). London, UK: Department of Economics, City University London.


2009 marks the centenary of methodological individualism (MI). The phrase was first used in English in a 1909 QJE paper by Joseph Schumpeter. Yet after 100 years there is considerable confusion as to what the phrase means. MI is often invoked as a fundamental description of the methodology both of neoclassical and Austrian economics, as well as other approaches, from New Keynesianism to analytical Marxism. However, the methodologies of those to whom the theoretical practice of MI is ascribed differ profoundly on the status of the individual economic agent, some adopting a holistic and some a reductionist standpoint. The purpose of the research of which this paper is part is to uncover and evaluate some of the meanings of the phrase methodological individualism (MI). This first paper considers the contributions of Joseph Schumpeter, who was the first to use the term, and of Carl Menger, considered by many to be the founder of MI. The approach adopted is to apply the intellectual apparatus developed in Denis (2004) to the arguments of these writers. This constitutes a test of that apparatus: is it able to clarify the standpoints to which it is applied? The conclusion reached is that both Schumpeter and Menger adopt a reductionist ontology in the sense of Denis (2004).

Publication Type: Monograph (Discussion Paper)
Additional Information: © 2010 Andy Denis.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Economics > Discussion Paper Series
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