Of positivism and the history of economic thought

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The rhetoric of positivism had a profound effect on the worldview and practice of economists in the middle of the last century. Though this influence has greatly diminished, it still may be found in the attitude of many economists toward the history of their discipline. This article traces the effects of positivism in economics and then argues that the history of economics is a critical component of both the undergraduate teaching and the graduate training of economists, and that as such, it should be reintroduced into the economics curriculum. It concludes by documenting some recent hopeful signs of change. © Southern Economic Association, 2013.






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Caldwell, B (2013). Of positivism and the history of economic thought. Southern Economic Journal, 79(4). pp. 753–767. 10.4284/0038-4038-2012.274 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/13175.

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Bruce J. Caldwell

Research Professor of Economics

Professor Caldwell's research focuses on the history of economic thought, with a specific interest in the life and works of the Nobel Laureate economist and social theorist F. A. Hayek. He is the author of Hayek's Challenge: An Intellectual Biography of F. A. Hayek (2004) and since 2002 has served as the general editor of the book series The Collected Works of F.A. Hayek. In 2022 he published Mont Pelerin 1947: Transcripts of the Founding Meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society as well as Hayek: A Life, 1899-1950, the first of a two-volume biography that he is writing with Hansjoerg Klausinger. In 2019-2020 he was a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He has also held research fellowships at NYU, the LSE, and Cambridge University. At Duke he is the Director of the Center for the History of Political Economy, a center whose purpose is to promote research in, and the teaching of, the history of economic thought.  The Center has received grants from a variety of sources, among them the National Endowment for the Humanities (2010, 2013, 2016), the John W. Pope Foundation (2008-present), the Institute for New Economic Thinking (2011-2013), the Thomas W. Smith Foundation (2011-present), and the Charles Koch Foundation (2018-present).

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