Handbook on the History of Economic Analysis Volume I
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Handbook on the History of Economic Analysis Volume I

Great Economists Since Petty and Boisguilbert

Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz

Volume I contains original biographical profiles of many of the most important and influential economists from the seventeenth century to the present day. These inform the reader about their lives, works and impact on the further development of the discipline. The emphasis is on their lasting contributions to our understanding of the complex system known as the economy. The entries also shed light on the means and ways in which the functioning of this system can be improved and its dysfunction reduced. 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.
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Chapter 113: Kenneth Joseph Arrow (b. 1921)

Maurice Salles

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Kenneth Joseph Arrow (b. 1921) Kenneth J. Arrow’s name is associated with two famous components of microeconomic theory: Arrow’s (im)possibility theorem of social choice and the so-called Arrow– Debreu model. The publication of Arrow’s impossibility theorem in 1950 marks the birth of a whole scientific field (social choice theory) that goes well beyond economics and overlaps with several other subjects, including political science, political philosophy and social ethics. Arrow’s scientific life is well documented. There are, among others, two papers authored by Arrow himself (1992, 2009), a number of interviews – for example, Kelly (1987 [2010]) and Feiwel (1987a, 1987b) – and the prefaces to the six volumes of his collected papers as well as the short historical introductions to many individual papers in this collection (Arrow 1984a, 1984b, 1984c, 1984d, 1985a, 1985b). In the book edited by Szenberg (1992), eminent economists were asked to write a 20-page essay on their life philosophy. Arrow responded with a beautifully written piece. We learn there about his interest in literature (Proust, Joyce, Kafka, Shelley and Keats) and in music (Wagner). His interest or even passion for abstraction had implications for his taste regarding the fine arts, which is also reflected in his admiration of Mondrian. Life Arrow was born in New York on 23 August 1921, into a wealthy family. He told Feiwel (1987b): “my first ten years were spent in considerable affluence, my next ten years in very considerable poverty”. After high school, he attended the City College of New York because...

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