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Vilfredo Pareto and the Birth of Modern Microeconomics

Luigino Bruni

There has been a recent resurgence of interest in the work of Vilfredo Pareto, one of the founders of modern economics. This book reconstructs the genesis and significance of Pareto’s theory of choice which is Pareto’s greatest contribution to economic science and which was used by John Hicks, amongst others, to develop microeconomics.
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Instead of a Conclusion

Luigino Bruni


13/3/02 8:58 am Page 1 Instead of a conclusion In reconstructing the development of Pareto’s methodology and theory of choice, I have mainly tried to highlight the symbioses, the exchanges, the rich and vivid dialogues in which some of the main figures of twentieth-century economic theory have created their own categories; and I hope that the experience of travelling (the first chapters) was just as interesting as reaching the goal. In this book I did not look for ‘today’s Pareto’; instead I was interested in ‘yesterday’s Pareto’, in order to better understand his original project. I was not concerned with what his thought has to say to the contemporary world since that depends on what each one of us regards as vital, relevant and valuable in the period and the culture in which we are living. Croce, Vailati, Edgeworth, Marshall, Wicksteed, Pantaleoni and the other figures encountered along the way have contributed to a better understanding of Pareto’s project with its limitations and scope. I studied authors not so much because they were Paretian ‘sources’ (even though this is true of some of them) but because they were travelling companions. Therefore, I aimed not so much to look for precursors as to highlight the fact that Pareto’s system did not emerge from the beatific solitude of Céligny, or from an inner journey essentially made up of books and readings. Instead it was the result of profound, difficult and often embattled discussions, which resulted in works which were also...

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