Augustin Cournot: Modelling Economics

Augustin Cournot: Modelling Economics

The Cournot Centre series

Edited by Jean-Philippe Touffut

From his earliest publications, Cournot broke from tradition with his predecessors in applying mathematical modelling to the social sphere. Consequently, he was the first to affirm the mathematization of social phenomena as an essential principle. The fecundity of Cournot’s works stems not only from this departure, but also from a richness that irrigated the social sciences of the twentieth century. In this collection, the contributors – including two Nobel laureates in economics – highlight Cournot’s profound innovativeness and continued relevance in the areas of industrial economics, mathematical economics, market competition, game theory and epistemology of probability and statistics. Each of the seven authors reminds us of the force and modernity of Cournot’s thought as a mathematician, historian of the sciences, philosopher and, not least, as an economist.

About the Series: Professor Robert Solow

Edited by Jean-Philippe Touffut

Subjects: economics and finance, economic psychology, history of economic thought

Extract

About the series Professor Robert Solow The Cournot Centre for Economic Studies is an independent French-based research institute. It takes its name from the pioneering economist, mathematician and philosopher Antoine Augustin Cournot (1801–77). Neither a think-tank nor a research bureau, the Centre enjoys the special independence of a catalyst. My old student dictionary (dated 1936) says that catalysis is the ‘acceleration of a reaction produced by a substance, called the catalyst, which may be recovered practically unchanged at the end of the reaction’. The reaction we have in mind results from bringing together (a) an issue of economic policy that is currently being discussed and debated in Europe and (b) the relevant theoretical and empirical findings of serious economic research in universities, think-tanks and research bureaux. Acceleration is desirable because it is better that reaction occurs before minds are made up and decisions taken, not after. We hope that the Cournot Centre can be recovered practically unchanged and used again and again. Notice that ‘policy debate’ is not exactly what we are trying to promote. To have a policy debate, you need not only knowledge and understanding, but also preferences, desires, values and goals. The trouble is that, in practice, the debaters often have only those things, and they invent or adopt only those ‘findings’ that are convenient. The Cournot Centre hopes to inject the findings of serious research at an early stage. It is important to realize that this is not easy or straightforward. The analytical issues that...