chapter  32
19 Pages

Exemplary economists of the twentieth century: a review article of thirty-six economists’ autobiographies

As the editors comment in their introduction (which, incidentally, is the same in both volumes) publishing collections of the autobiographies of well known economists is now a highly fashionable activity. Among the more recent ventures in the field they mention Szenberg (1992); Breit and Spencer (1995) dealing with Nobel laureates; Kregel (1988; 1989) which reprints many of the autobiographies originally published in Banca nazionale del lavoro; four volumes of commissioned ‘Makers of Modern Economics’ edited by Heertje (1993; 1995; 1997; 1999); and a series of interviews with economists edited by Tribe (1997), by Snowdon and Vane (1999) and by Ibanez (1999). The thirty-six autobiographies included here (or, more precisely, thirty-five since one, Chapter 18 on Ashenfelter, is an interview) have been drawn from the contributors to the Elgar series of collected papers, Economics of the Twentieth Century. As the appendix (reproduced in both volumes) indicates, not all of these contributors are included. On my count, sixty-nine economists in all are represented in this series through their collected essays, that is, almost twice as many potential ‘exemplary economists’ as appear in these volumes. I note also that the thirtysix include the editors of this series for Elgar, Mark Blaug and Mark Perlman. Table 32.1 presents data on all thirty-six economists included, some of which is useful to test the validity of the ‘selection criteria’ while, in addition, Table 32.1 facilitates the drawing of generalisations from this information set on ‘exemplary economists’ from the twentieth century. The introduction does some of this in terms of career patterns (section 0.2), networks and influences (section 0.3), and the type of lessons the printed views impart for understanding the contemporary state of economics. However, the less than a dozen pages devoted to this in the editors’ introduction fail to tap anything like the full complement of riches which can be gathered on this score from reading these books.