Social Choice and Welfare

, Volume 25, Issue 2–3, pp 319–326 | Cite as

The pre-history of Kenneth Arrow's social choice and individual values

  • Patrick Suppes
Original Paper


The purpose of this article is to give an historical sense of the intellectual developments that determined the form and content of Kenneth Arrow's path-breaking work published in 1951. One aspect deals with personal influences that helped shape Arrow's own thinking. A second aspect is concerned with the early history of the general theory of relations, which is mainly centered in the nineteenth century, and also with the essentially independent modern development of the axiomatic method in the same time period. Arrow's use of general binary relations and of axiomatic methods to ground, in a clear mathematical way, his impossibility theorem marks a turning point in welfare economics, and, more generally, in mathematical economics.


Welfare Economic Relative Product Mathematical Economic Cardinal Measure Impossibility Theorem 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



A number of remarks in this article are based on conversation with Ken Arrow. I acknowledge with pleasure his willingness to think about his own earlier years and thereby to both clarify and amplify many of the points I have tried to make. Of course, the reader needs to realize that, on some matters, I may not have understood in the most accurate way his remarks to me.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for the Study of Language and InformationStanford UniversityStanfordUSA

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