The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Jaffé, William (1898–1980)

  • Donald A. Walker
Reference work entry


Historian of economic thought whose important contributions were to the study of the work of Léon Walras, Jaffé was born in Brooklyn on 16 June 1898 and died in Toronto on 17 August 1980. He graduated from City College of New York with an AB degree in classics and English (1918), from Columbia University with an MA in history (1919), and from the University of Paris with a Docteur en droit in economics and political science (1924). He taught economics at Northwestern University (1928–66), and at York University in Ontario (1970–80). Jaffé translated Walras’s Eléments d’économie politique pure into English (Walras 1954), thereby providing a major stimulus to the study of his work; edited and exhaustively annotated Walras’s scientific correspondence and related papers (Jaffé 1965a), thereby furnishing an encyclopedic storehouse of information about his writings; and wrote many essays on Walras’s economic ideas (Walker 1983a, b). Jaffé believed that, even in its scientific aspects, a writer’s work reveals the influence of his normative views and intellectual environment, and that to understand his work fully it is therefore necessary to study his biography and the era of which he was a part (Jaffé 1965b). He applied this thesis to the study of Walras’s work, examining the aspects of his biography that had a bearing on his theories, explaining the antecedents of his scientific ideas and the philosophical sources of his normative conceptions, and interpreting and assessing his theories of demand, exchange, production, capital formation, money, tâtonnement, and general economic equilibrium.


General equilibrium Jaffé, W. Normative economics Tâtonnement Walras, L. 

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  1. Walker, D.A. 1981. William Jaffé, historian of economic thought, 1898–1980. American Economic Review 71: 1012–1019. (This contains a complete bibliography of Jaffé’s published writings).Google Scholar
  2. Walker, D.A. 1983a. William Jaffé, Officier de Liaison intellectuel. In Research in the history of economic thought and methodology, ed. W.J. Samuels. Greenwich: JAI Press.Google Scholar
  3. Walker, D.A., ed. 1983b. William Jaffé’s essays on Walras. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Walras, L. 1954. Elements of pure economics. Homewood: Richard D. Irwin. Trans. and annotated by W. Jaffé.Google Scholar

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donald A. Walker
    • 1
  1. 1.