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Finding Equilibrium:
Arrow, Debreu, McKenzie and the Problem of Scientific Credit
Till Düppe & E. Roy Weintraub

Hardcover | 2014 | $39.50 / £27.95 | ISBN: 9780691156644
304 pp. | 6 x 9 | 11 halftones. | SHOPPING CART

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Finding Equilibrium explores the post–World War II transformation of economics by constructing a history of the proof of its central dogma—that a competitive market economy may possess a set of equilibrium prices. The model economy for which the theorem could be proved was mapped out in 1954 by Kenneth Arrow and Gerard Debreu collaboratively, and by Lionel McKenzie separately, and would become widely known as the “Arrow-Debreu Model.” While Arrow and Debreu would later go on to win separate Nobel prizes in economics, McKenzie would never receive it. Till Düppe and E. Roy Weintraub explore the lives and work of these economists and the issues of scientific credit against the extraordinary backdrop of overlapping research communities and an economics discipline that was shifting dramatically to mathematical modes of expression.

Based on recently opened archives, Finding Equilibrium shows the complex interplay between each man’s personal life and work, and examines compelling ideas about scientific credit, publication, regard for different research institutions, and the awarding of Nobel prizes. Instead of asking whether recognition was rightly or wrongly given, and who were the heroes or villains, the book considers attitudes toward intellectual credit and strategies to gain it vis-à-vis the communities that grant it.

Telling the story behind the proof of the central theorem in economics, Finding Equilibrium sheds light on the changing nature of the scientific community and the critical connections between the personal and public rewards of scientific work.

Till Düppe is assistant professor of economics at the Université du Québec à Montréal. He is the author of The Making of the Economy. E. Roy Weintraub is professor of economics at Duke University. He is the author of How Economics Became a Mathematical Science.


"Düppe and Weintraub have written a powerful book that is both a marvelous introduction to modern economics for all who want to know what mathematical economists are up to, and a deep, textured account of the paths Arrow, Debreu, and McKenzie followed on their way to general equilibrium theory. A thoughtful mix of biography, intellectual history, and mathematical expertise, Finding Equilibrium invites us into the moments that proved decisive for economics as it exists today."--Peter Galison, author of Einstein's Clocks, Poincaré's Maps

"A fascinating account of one of the central quests of modern economics--finding general conditions under which the existence of a competitive equilibrium is assured. Offering remarkable insights into the workings of the economics profession, this book illuminates the interplay between the personalities of the researchers, the structure of their ideas, and the historical events of their time."--Jerry R. Green, Harvard University

"Lakatos used history to show us the informality of mathematics. Düppe and Weintraub use history to show us how personal mathematics is: how the commitments of economists, and their personalities, are expressed in their mathematical accounts. Three different economists, three different mathematics of general equilibria--this narrative brilliantly destabilizes any linear story about a central motif in the creation of modern economics."--Mary S. Morgan, London School of Economics and University of Amsterdam

"'Unputdownable' is a word more often used of novels than of books on general equilibrium theory, but it describes this book. Written in a style accessible to nonmathematicians, Finding Equilibrium makes fascinating reading for anyone interested in the rise of mathematical economics after the Second World War."--Roger Backhouse, author of The Ordinary Business of Life: A History of Economics from the Ancient World to the Twenty-First Century

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Table of Contents:

Preface ix
Chronology xxiii
Part I People 1
Chapter 1 Arrow's Ambitions 3
Chapter 2 McKenzie's Frustrations 24
Chapter 3 Debreu's Silence 47
Part II Context 65
Chapter 4 Sites 67
Chapter 5 Community 98
Part III Credit 129
Chapter 6 Three Proofs 131
Chapter 7 Aftermath 172
Chapter 8 The Proofs Become History 204
Conclusion 231
Coda 245
Acknowledgments 249
References 251
Index of Names 267
Index of Subjects 273

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      File created: 3/10/2015

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