Early Critical Reactions to Pareto

  • Fiorenzo MornatiEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Economic Thought book series (PHET)


It is worth concluding this reconstruction of the second phase in Pareto’s intellectual biography with a survey of the numerous critical reactions to the Course in Political Economy (Pareto stated that his intention had been to make of the Course “a worthy free-trader study” as well as “a work as full of facts as possible, to prove that it is not true that we classical economists ignore history and experience”, Pareto to Pantaleoni, 31st March 1896, see Pareto (1984a, p. 428)) and the opening stages of the debate over the law of income distribution, which together combined to retrieve Pareto from the almost total obscurity in which he had existed hitherto. (In fact, the Considerations had attracted very little attention on publication, other than from Pantaleoni and Walras. The first instalment had been acknowledged in 1892 by the non-scientific free-trader economist Maurice Block, who, in the Journal des Economistes, LI, X-1, p. 62, had also recorded that he too had examined Cournot’s economic ideas, finding them not only erroneous but also impossible to correct via the use of mathematics. He had added that Pareto, who saw the value of mathematics, went astray, firstly, because passions cannot be measured, secondly, because it is impossible to take all the innumerable causes of events into account and, thirdly, because mathematics does not allow us to understand phenomena which could not be formalised such as chemical reactions or the determination of salaries. On the other hand, Marshall’s pupil Sanger (Economic Journal V-3: 113–138, 1895, pp. 113–138) had referred, without further comment, to the mathematical reasoning underlying Pareto’s critique of the hypothesis concerning the constancy of the marginal utility of money and Edgeworth’s theory of index numbers and had reproduced the first part of his demonstration of the optimality of free competition.)


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Economics and StatisticsUniversity of TurinTurinItaly

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