Pareto on the History Of Economic Thought as an Aspect of Experimental Economics

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Pareto on the History Of Economic Thought as an Aspect of Experimental Economics


Michael McLure*

University of Western Australia

Economics Program

Crawley, WA 6009,


Abstract: The reasons for studying the history of economic thought are diverse. The extreme range of reasons include suggestions that research in this field is: a way of passing time on an intellectual curiosity; an investment in human capital which contributes to a more profound understanding of modern economic theory; an activity of historical interest only, totally devoid of concern with the purely scientific merits of theories; or a subject for sociologists intent on understanding the culture of science and how this has influenced the evolution of scientific knowledge. Interestingly, Pareto had a well developed idea of the scientific reasons for undertaking histories of economic thought, which he saw as an aspect of “experimental economics”. This paper investigates how, and why, Pareto incorporated the history of economic thought as a central element of experimental economics. His approach to the history of economics is shown to be historical, albeit in a limited sense, and non-historical, in the sense that it provided data for the development of experimental hypotheses and theory pertaining to the sociological part of the economic phenomenon.

Key Words: Exegesis, Experimental Economics, History of Economic Thought, Pareto.

JEL Codes: B13, B31

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