Georgescu-Roegen on Gossen
I am the sole investigator for this project -a little, solitary reminder of my earlier academic interest in history of economics. I obtained funding for archival research in the USA from American Foundation for Paris School of Economics and Gould Foundation, and from the Department of Economics of Duke University in 2009.
I study Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen’s involvement in the English translation of Gossen’s book The Laws of Human Relations (1983), for which he wrote a lengthy introduction. His highly appreciative, thoroughly documented study has become a major reference on an otherwise little known early writer. It suggests that Gossen was unjustly ignored by his contemporaries, just as Georgescu-Roegen felt that his own contributions to economics were insufficiently recognized.
Yet it was not only a personal motive that inspired Georgescu-Roegen’s editorial enterprise: I show that his original plan was to build a model of consumer choice, with support of hints found in Gossen, to address what he saw as essential theoretical issues. Rather, completion of the book project took almost twenty years, during which external circumstances and analytical difficulties gradually eroded the initial theoretical interests, while a sense of self-identification with Gossen gained prominence. As a result, major issues remained ultimately unsolved. History of economics, originally intended to aid economic theory-building, became the key for sublimating personal feelings into a broader reflection on science in society, beyond time and space differences.
An article presenting my results, “A tale of two destinies: Georgescu-Roegen on Gossen” will come out in the Spring 2014 issue of History of Political Economy.
Before that, I gave a presentation of my first results at the 12th Summer Institute for the Preservation of the History of Economic Thought, University of Richmond, June 2011 [paper; video].