Lúcia Regina Centurião
Doctorate – An Immediately Post-Walras Generation of Mathematical Economists
Advisor: Prof. Dr. Pedro Garcia Duarte
Comission: Profs. Drs. Laura Valladão de Mattos, Fábio Barbieri and Jaques Kerstenetzky
Class: 217, FEA-5
This thesis studies the history of mathematization of economics, in particular, the dissemination of the Walrasian general equilibrium theory at the beginning of the 20th century. Two main perspectives were used. I first analyzed this dissemination through the works of three authors who adopted Walras’s ideas: Henry Ludwell Moore in the United States, and Albert Aupetit and Étienne Antonelli in France. The second perspective is the dissemination of Walrasian ideas the classroom. For this, I investigated general treatises used for teaching at that time, which presented the Walrasian model. Believing that young people’s lack of interest in Walrasian theory was because it had no empirical content, Henry Moore, a professor at Columbia University, developed a version of the Walrasian model that could be empirically tested. Albert Aupetit, for his part, also believed in the important role that statistics could play in the theory; however, his main concern was with the monetary aspect of Walras’s model. Étienne Antonelli was interested in Walras’s ideas about using mathematics in economics and about the cooperative movement. Both Aupetit and Antonelli failed twice in the selection process to become professors in France, and devoted themselves to other activities outside the academy: Aupetit became secretary general of the Bank of France and Antonelli became a French politician, responsible for the law that established the social security system in France in 1928. The work shows, therefore, how the institution of the concours d’agrégation may have made it difficult for the Walrasian general equilibrium theory to be taught in France. The thesis also shows that probably some of Walras’s main followers in France at the beginning of the 20th century were in policy-making, and outside the academy. In the three first chapters, one theme is central: Walras’s Abrégé, the version of his theory developed for the classroom, written for Aupetit to use it in France - with no success, since Aupetit failed the concours d'agrégation. The thesis also unfolds how Walras tried to get a translation of the work from Moore, without success too. Finally, after Walras’s death in 1910, Antonelli published the Abrégé in 1914, with some modifications. However, the general equilibrium theory became famous with the publication of the two books by Cassel (1924) and Bowley (1924), which presented the model without attributing authorship to Walras. In the fourth chapter I analyzed the three books - Cassel (1924), Bowley (1924) and Antonelli (1914). The chapter concluded that, regarding the dissemination of the Walrasian general equilibrium theory, although the three books presented Walras’s framework, they also presented at the same time antagonistic fundamental beliefs about what was economic science and its scope. Therefore, Walras’s model was taught in very different theoretical frameworks: no one dominant group appropriated it.
*Abstract provided by the author