Some Developments in Economic Theory Since 1940: An Eyewitness Account

Posted: 4 Jun 2010

See all articles by Kenneth J. Arrow

Kenneth J. Arrow

Stanford University - Department of Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: January 2009


Any psychologist who has studied eyewitness accounts knows first of all how unreliable they are. I therefore submit this informal account of some developments in economic theory without research, just as a set of recollections. It is also not an autobiography, nor a systematic account of my own work. Rather, I consider primarily those developments in economic theory that have had both general interest in the field and special concern for me. For example, as social choice theory is still a specialized field, I am not going to discuss it at all. Further, as it has turned out, I emphasize the developments of technique, although to some extent I refer to some of the underlying visions of the economy to which they are applied. To evaluate my eyewitness testimony, I give the reader some idea of my background and, in particular, the path that led me to be an economist and that has influenced my work and my perception of the development of economics in general. (As my friend Paul David keeps on reminding me and the rest of the world, all development is path-dependent.) I then follow up with four major aspects of economic research in the last 60 years, the period of my scholarly activity. One, econometric methodology and practice, is of such fundamental importance that it cannot go unnoticed, although I played no role in it. With the other three, general equilibrium, dynamic processes, and uncertainty and information, I was more intimately involved.

Suggested Citation

Arrow, Kenneth J., Some Developments in Economic Theory Since 1940: An Eyewitness Account (January 2009). Annual Review of Economics, Vol. 1, pp. 1-16, 2009. Available at SSRN: or

Kenneth J. Arrow (Contact Author)

Stanford University - Department of Economics ( email )

Landau Economics Building
579 Serra Mall
Stanford, CA 94305-6072
United States

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