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 123: George Akerlof (b. 1940)

Olivier Favereau


George Akerlof was born in Newhaven (Connecticut, USA) on 17 June 1940. His father was a Swedish immigrant and his mother was from a family that had immigrated from Germany. He received his BA at Yale University in 1962, and his PhD at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1966. He spent the whole of his career at the University of California at Berkeley, with some breaks at the Indian Statistical Institute (1967–68), the Council of Economic Advisors (1973–74), the Federal Reserve Board (1977–78) and the London School of Economics (1978–80). He was a joint recipient of the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel in 2001, with Michael Spence and Joseph Stiglitz. Akerlof is one of the most original economic theorists in recent times – beginning with “The market for lemons” (1970), the paper for which he received the above mentioned Nobel prize, to his last book Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism (co-authored with Robert Shiller 2009). What is remarkable is the gradual emergence of a new paradigm in economics, which is by now quite explicit but which could not be expected, when reading his 1970 paper. The importance of information asymmetries (of which he was one of the three modern “discoverers”, as the 2001 Bank of Sweden Prize committee rightly acknowledges) could have driven him towards the waters of the nowadays standard mainstream economics, with its extreme hypotheses on calculative...

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