Great Economists Since Petty and Boisguilbert
Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz
Chapter 38: Marie-Esprit-Léon Walras (1834–1910)
The presentation of Walras’s work is problematic because it is both central to economic theory and highly controversial. The general economic equilibrium theory occupies a privileged place in post-war theoretical developments; a boldly stripped-down version of the general economic equilibrium model forms the basis even of macroeconomic approaches such as the real business cycles and dynamic stochastic general equilibrium theories. At the same time, the reconstruction of Walras’s contribution made considerable progress beyond what it was in the 1980s, thanks to the publication of Auguste and Léon Walras’s Œuvres économiques complètes (hereafter OEC followed by the volume, page if appropriate and page of English translation if available and adequate). New interpretations have thus appeared, sometimes conflicting with each other. The purpose of this entry is to give a summary account of Léon Walras’s political and social economy in his work as a whole. A particular attention is paid to the three main volumes – the famous “triptych”: Éléments d’économie politique pure, Études d’économie sociale and Études d’économie appliquée. This corpus is presented following the way the Walrasian historiography has evolved over the past 50 years, and the themes reflect the purpose Walras gave to his work: the scientific solution to the question sociale, or rather “to two social questions plus one”: the traditional social question, the problem of monopolies, and that of money. An Unlikely Path In April 1905, the Nobel Peace Prize award committee received an application from Léon Walras, then...