Mark Blaug on the Historiography of Economics

23 Pages Posted: 28 Jun 2012

See all articles by John B. Davis

John B. Davis

University of Amsterdam; Marquette University

Date Written: May 1, 2012


This paper discusses how Mark Blaug reversed his thinking about the historiography of economics, abandoning rational reconstructions for historical ones, by using an economics of scientific knowledge argument against Paul Samuelson and others that rational reconstructions of past ideas and theories in the 'marketplace of ideas' were Pareto inefficient. Blaug’s positive argument for historical reconstructions was built on the concept of 'lost content' and his rejection of the end-state view of competition in favor of a process conception. He used these ideas to emphasize path dependency in the development of economic thinking, thereby advancing an evolutionary view of economics that has connections to his Lakatosian research programs understanding of economic methodology. The paper argues that Blaug was essentially successful in criticizing the standard view of the history of economic thought in economics, and that this is borne out by the nature of the change in recent economics.

Keywords: Blaug, historiography, Samuelson, economics of scientific knowledge, process-conception of competition, path-dependency, evolutionary view

JEL Classification: B31, B41

Suggested Citation

Davis, John B. and Davis, John B., Mark Blaug on the Historiography of Economics (May 1, 2012). Available at SSRN: or

John B. Davis (Contact Author)

Marquette University ( email )

P.O. Box 1881
Milwaukee, WI 53201-1881
United States

University of Amsterdam ( email )


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