Developments in Major Fields of Economics
Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz
Chapter 17: Formalization and mathematical modelling
Claims that economics is close in spirit and principle to mathematics have been reiterated many times; a well-known one is William S. Jevons’s “our science must be mathematical, simply because it deals with quantities” (1871 : 1.5, original emphasis). The use of mathematics is now widely recognized as an essential ingredient of both research and teaching in economics, and attempts to build mathematical accounts of economic phenomena are as old as the discipline itself (Theocharis 1961 ). The history of mathematical modelling in economics has not been a linear one. The profession privileged the verbal form for long, and even when the formal approach gradually gained ground, it often had to defend itself against hefty criticisms. Today’s widespread consensus around formalization does not prevent doubts from occasionally resurfacing.