Means and Meaning in Economic Theory

  • Stephen F. Frowen


It is plainly imperative that the notation of mathematics or symbolic logic should be uniform with all users. The terms used in natural science can also be standardised, since they are operational, they refer to the results of practical and describable procedures. Some may think that economics should follow the same rule. But, despite the intense endeavours of half-a-century to mathematise economics, and all the work of the accountancy profession, Leontief s great invention of input-output analysis and despite the computer revolution, economic theory cannot be deemed operational and it cannot be thought of as a unity. The most admired of its constructs in the eyes of the profession, the one appealed to with more unquestioning assurance than any other is, if we insist on a strict validation, one which describes a timeless system. General equilibrium wipes out the experience with which consciousness itself can be identified, the transience of thought, the necessity to reckon with a succession of moments, to acknowledge time-to-come and to exploit it. This repudiation of the process of history has taken place despite the plainest warnings of one of the Founding Fathers of British economics, Alfred Marshall. Its ascendancy has survived the turmoil of the twentieth century and the ever-faster spread throughout all societies and institutions, of the character of a vast casino.


Objective Knowledge Speculative Market Great Invention Accountancy Profession Perfect Competition 
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  1. 1.
    N. Georgescu-Roegen, Analytical Economics, Part I Some Orientation Issues in Economics (Harvard University Press; London: Oxford University Press, 1966).Google Scholar

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© G. L. S. Shackle 1988

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  • Stephen F. Frowen

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