Early History of Demand Theory: Anti-Psychologist Thesis Reconsidered

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According to a widely shared view, the development of demand theory in the first half of the twentieth century was heavily influenced by anti-psychological attitudes of economists. I call this view “anti-psychologist thesis” and I criticize it on several grounds. I propose an alternative account, according to which the development of demand theory is best characterized as a process aiming towards greater generality. I provide evidence in favor of this “generalization thesis”, and I trace the cause of disagreements between advocates of these two alternative accounts. I argue that this cause lies in identifying the aim of the demand theory as well as divergent understanding of what it means to “abstract from psychological assumptions”.

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