Handbook on the History of Economic Analysis Volume II

Handbook on the History of Economic Analysis Volume II

Schools of Thought in Economics

Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz

Volume II contains entries on the major schools of economic thought and analysis. These schools differ with regard to their 'vision' of the working of the economic system, the major forces and interactions that shape its path, and the policy recommendations proposed. At any moment of time, several such schools typically compete with one another, striving for dominance within the economic and political discourse. Each Handbook can be read individually and acts as a self-contained volume in its own right. It can be purchased separately or as part of a three-volume set.

Chapter 19: Lausanne School

Roberto Baranzini and François Allisson

Subjects: economics and finance, history of economic thought


In the current sense of the term and strictly speaking, the name École de Lausanne (Lausanne School), which dates back to the early twentieth century, refers to three economists’ contributions to (pure) economics: Léon Walras, who was the founder of it and held the first chair in economics at the University of Lausanne, his successor Vilfredo Pareto and, incidentally, Pasquale Boninsegni. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, economists who wanted to get together a group of authors anxious to widely use mathematics in economic reasoning dubbed themselves the École mathématique (Mathematical School). A number of economists used to be called that way, namely, Antoine-Augustin Cournot, William Stanley Jevons and Irving Fisher. The name École de Lausanne first occurred in French in the subtitle to the Petit traité d’économie politique mathématique (Small Treatise on Mathematical Political Economy), written by a mathematician – Hermann Laurent – in 1902, which presented a simplified version of the general economic equilibrium. The first occurrence in English might be said to date back to 1909: Edgeworth’s announcement in the Economic Journal of the ceremony in honor of Léon Walras, his “fifty-year Jubilee”. The École de Lausanne is thus characterized by its innovative and systematic use of mathematical language in the study of economic phenomena and its consideration of the interdependencies between markets, through its formulation of the general economic equilibrium. It had first bite at the mathematical determination of equilibrium prices, that is, prices that provide equality between supply and demand simultaneously in a competitive economy composed of a large number of markets.

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