Great Economists Since Petty and Boisguilbert
Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz
Chapter 65: Arthur Spiethoff (1873–1957)
The German economist Arthur Spiethoff was born in Düsseldorf in 1873. He studied economics and politics in Berlin and was an assistant of Gustav Schmoller between 1899 and 1908. In 1905 he received a PhD for his work on economic crises. After finishing his habilitation in 1907 Spiethoff became full professor at the German University of Prague in 1908. From 1918 until his retirement in 1939 he was professor at the University of Bonn. Arthur Spiethoff died in 1957 in Tübingen. On Spiefhoff ’s life and academic record, see Clausing (1958) and Kamp (1969). Arthur Spiethoff is known for his work on economic methodology and business cycles. In the History of Economic Analysis Joseph A. Schumpeter notes that Spiethoff is one of “most eminent members” of “a ‘youngest’ historical school” and that “[t]he international reputation of Arthur Spiethoff . . . rests upon his outstanding performance in the field of business cycle research” (Schumpeter 1954: 815–16). Between Spiethoff and Schumpeter there is both a personal and intellectual connection. As noted by Kurz (2013), they were not only friends but also shared similar methodological positions. Schumpeter was influenced by what Spiethoff termed “historical” or “observational theory”. Observational theory building starts with empirical and historical investigations of the phenomenon under consideration in order to identify and isolate its essential regularities. Then it tries to provide a causal explanation of the essential regularities using theoretical concepts and tools (see Spiethoff 2002a: 109–12). In his later methodological work, Spiethoff further aimed at...
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