Mark Blaug on the historiography of economics


  • John B. Davis Marquette University and University of Amsterdam



Blaug, historiography, Samuelson, economics of scientific knowledge, process-conception of competition, path-dependency, evolutionary view


This paper discusses how Mark Blaug reversed his thinking about the historiography of economics, abandoning 'rational' for 'historical' reconstruction, and using an economics of scientific knowledge argument against Paul Samuelson and others that rational reconstructions of past ideas and theories in the "marketplace of ideas" were Pareto inefficient. Blaug's positive argument for historical reconstruction was built on the concept of "lost content" and his rejection of the end-state view of competition in favor of a process view. He used these ideas to emphasize path dependency in the development of economic thinking, thereby advancing an evolutionary view of economics that has connections to a Lakatosian understanding of economic methodology. The paper argues that Blaug was essentially successful in criticizing the standard rational reconstructionist view of the history of economic thought in economics, and that this is borne out by the nature of the change in recent economics.

Author Biography

John B. Davis, Marquette University and University of Amsterdam

John B. Davis is professor of economics at Marquette University (USA), professor of the history and philosophy of economics at University of Amsterdam (Netherlands), and fellow of the Tinbergen Institute. His research interests include the philosophy, ethics, and methodology of economics, (recent) history of economics, and healthcare economics. He is the author of Individuals and identity in economics (Cambridge University Press, 2011), and co-author with Marcel Boumans of Economic methodology: understanding economics as a science (Palgrave, 2010). He is co-editor of the Journal of Economic Methodology (JEM), and editor of the ‘Routledge Advances in Social Economics’ book series.




How to Cite

Davis, J. B. (2014). Mark Blaug on the historiography of economics. Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics, 6(3), 44-63.