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Vilfredo Pareto and the Birth of Modern Microeconomics

Luigino Bruni, Professor of Economics, LUMSA University, Rome, Italy
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.
Extent: 176 pp
Hardback Price: $127.00 Web: $114.30
Publication Date: 2002
ISBN: 978 1 84064 532 3
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  • eISBN: 978 1 78100 982 6

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  • Economics and Finance
  • Economic History
  • History of Economic Thought
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.

Hicks, Allen, Samuelson and others acknowledged Pareto as the father of the new ordinalist microeconomics but at the same time, portrayed him as confused and contradictory, caught between the old and new paradigms. Luigino Bruni argues that Pareto’s revolution in choice theory is better understood in the context of his own philosophical framework. This framework is revealed by reconstructing his dialogues with economists (Pantaleoni) and philosophers (Vailati and Croce), and by exploring Pareto’s economic theory in the light of his philosophy of science. In addition, Luigino Bruni argues that Pareto’s contribution was different and more complex than Hicks’s ordinalism and Samuelson’s operationalism. From this analysis emerges an image of Pareto as a man whose ideas and work was only partially fulfilled.

This original and sometimes unconventional book will be of great interest to economists, historians of economic thought and philosophers of the social sciences.
‘Given Pareto’s powerful influence on modern economic theory and method, one hopes that the present growth phase in Pareto scholarship will continue. Bruni’s book should help to keep Pareto scholarship on the upswing: It is sufficiently informative that most readers will come away from it with a better understanding of Pareto and his work. . . . this book has much else to recommend it. Since it discusses both the early development of choice theory, one of the cornerstones of modern economics, and early contributions to economic methodology, it should be of interest not only to economists in general and to historians of economics in particular, but also to members of the broader philosophy of science community.’
– Christian E. Weber, Journal of the History of Economic Thought
Contents: Introduction 1. The Intellectual Evolution of a Non-Economist: 1890–1900 2. Pareto and Vailati: A Forgotten Exchange on Choice and Action 3. The Methodological Dispute Between Pareto and Croce 4. Guidelines for Paretian Methodology 5. More Wars Than Peace: Pareto and English Economists 6. An Unitarian Reading of Pareto’s Paradoxes in the Theory of Choice, and of Its (Mis)Interpretations Instead of a Conclusion References Index