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Austrian Economics in America: The Migration of a Tradition (Historical Perspectives on Modern Economics) Paperback – January 28, 1998

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Editorial Reviews


"Vaughn has written an outstanding work in the history of economic thought, the philosophy and sociology of science, and on those fundamental issues of economics in which every economist should be interested." Journal of Economic Literature

"Karen Vaughn has produced a lucid and compelling story of 25 years of Austrian economics in America...historians of thought and subjectivist economists will find the book stimulating and enlightening." Economic Affairs

"The lines of demarcation between Austrian and neoclassical economics are not always easy to discern, and the issues, whether methodological or procedural, are sometimes fuzzy. This book is an important step toward clarification. Vaughn does not rely upon mere folkways nor attempt to titillate through overemphasis upon dramatis personae. She concentrates on the discussion and clarification of issues, instead, so that Austrian economics emerges (appropriately) as an important body of doctrine, not the idiosyncratic brainchild of a small group of ideological outcasts. The book should be welcomed by the growing number of quasi-Austrians who are not 'hard-core' but who are sympathetic to the Austrian theoretic/methodological agenda." Robert F. Hébert, Auburn University

"In this book, Karen Vaughn deftly chronicles the American wing of post-1970 Austrian economics. Her selection of issues is intentionally designed to highlight the towering influence of Ludwig Lachmann, whose 'radical subjectivism' demanded that the revolution Ludwig van Mises had started be completed. Vaughn's approach--that of an insider who knew Lachmann and his critics--lends a special authenticity to the work. This is an important book that will amuse, infuriate, and perhaps persuade." Laurence S. Moss, Babson College

"The topics in this book are deep, the debates grand, the implications are limited only by the reader's own imagination. And--a rarity among economists--Vaughn writes with clarity and grace. This is a history of modern economics the way it should be written. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in contemporary Austrian economics and its innovative direction of research for the next century." David L. Prychitko, SUNY-Oswego, in Religion and Liberty

Book Description

This 1994 book examines the development of the ideas of the new Austrian school from its beginnings in the 1870s to the present. It focuses primarily in showing how the coherent theme that emerges from the thought of Carl Menger, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig Lachman, Israel Kirzner and others is an examination of the implications of time and ignorance for economic theory.

Product Details

  • Series: Historical Perspectives on Modern Economics
  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (January 28, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521637651
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521637657
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,515,550 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Junglies VINE VOICE on August 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My introduction to the Austrian School of Economics came with a chance encounter of a publication from the Institute of Economic Affairs of London. This one monograph helped me to discover more of their particular publications and other similar books and pamphlets at the Laissez Faire Bookshop where one could often overhear at the very least some strenuous debates about economics and politics etc. My real academic introduction came with a paper by Peter Wynarczyck presented at a Newcastle upon Tyne Polytechnic Conference which drew together some of the historic strands of the school and some of the controversial ideas which it had generated.

I came back to Karen Vaughn's book while preparing another review for Amazon although in a slightly different field and, from the point of view of an educated layman, I have to say that I find this particular volume to be an excellent and succint piece of work but which perhaps at the time of writing requires a new edition.

I do not claim to be au fait with all of the various controversies within the Austrian School but I understand that there are some dogmatic fissures between certain groups some of whom claim that there's alone is the one true faith and who resist criticism especially from outside the academic arena.

My purpose in this brief review is to highlight what I believe is to be one of the best introductions to this particular field that I have read which is generally accessible to anyone with a reasonable grasp of economic and political ideas and who is at least a little sceptical of the current state of neoclassical economic theory.
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Format: Paperback
The author of this book does an excellent job of explaining the development of Austrian economics in the US. Vaughn illustrates the importance of the Calculation and Capital debates, both in the development of the Austrian paradigm and in the decline of its reputation during the 1930's. Her views on Mises, Kirzner and Rothbard are bound to cause controversy, but she develops her critiques carefully. Vaughn explains Hayek's contributions clearly, and demonstrates the importance of his work on psychology and social theory to the Austrian paradigm. Vaughn also brings her readers up to date by discussing many of the most recent developments in Austrian economics. However, the most important contribution of this book is in her discussions of lesser-known Austrians. Vaughn gives Weiser the credit that he deserves for developing the concept of opportunity cost and for raising the issue of calculation under socialism. Vaughn also explores the ideas of one of the least understood and most mysterious figures in Austrian economics- Ludwig Lachmann. Vaughn's arguments against equilibrium theorizing and for process orientated paradigms are unlikely to bring about an immediate revolution in economic science, but her case is compelling.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This excellent book documents in succinct but engaging style the origin and history of the Austrian school of economics from a distinctly Lachmannian point of view. My exposure to Austrian economics began with the work of Murray Rothbard, and from there moved on to Mises and then Kirzner. Predictably, my subsequent reading of both the Austrian and neoclassical literature has always been interpreted through the traditional (conventional) Austrian lense.

This book put everything in persepective for me. Karen Vaughn argues that Austrians agree on fundamentals, but disagree on their interpretation, emphasis, and applicaiton. Features such as subjectivism, time, ignorance, knowledge and human action figure prominently in every Austrian work. However, the way in which these subjects come to be treated differ radically in nearly every Austrian account of the economic process. In fact, she argues that the work of many Austrians represent a significant (and unfortunate) departure from the work of the school's founder, Carl Menger. The themes of ignorace, time and processes are lost in the clean, equilibrating, and unproblematic mechanisms of laissez-faire as it has come to be expounded by both Mises and Rothbard. Additionally, the pioneering work on entrepreneurship by Israel Kirzner is also symptomatic of the unavoidable tendency to abstract from time and ignorance in order to construct or articulate an orderly and well-functioning market process.

Throughout the book, the author continually hints at a possible (viable) alternative economic paradigm. The best source to draw inspiration from, the author argues, can be found in the writings of Ludwig Lachmann (the quintessential radical subjectivist). However, hints are really all we get in the book.
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Format: Paperback
Karen Vaughn is an Emeritus professor of Economics at George Mason University, where she served as chair of the department from 1982-89.

She wrote in the Preface to this 1994 book, "The question, 'What is Austrian Economics?' continued to haunt me... This book is finally my systematic attempt to answer that question... In the writing of this book, I have come to believe that the issues raised by Austrians ... may well have within them the seeds of a genuine scientific revolution."

She begins with the admission, "one of my colleagues rather unsympathetically (said), Austrian economics is simply neoclassical economics in words. Others see little more than free market advocacy in Austrian writings." (Pg. 1) She laments that "Hayek's larger exploration of the problem of knowledge and processes in economic order seemed to fall on deaf ears... It is no wonder, then, that by the end of the 1940s, Hayek ceased writing primarily for an audience of economists." (Pg. 61)

She addresses the question of "why (Ludwig von) Mises never gained the stature in the United States that he had in Austria." In addition to his firm opposition to socialism, she notes that "Mises was almost sixty when he emigrated to America... (and) he was often fighting battles that had long ceased to interest professional economists... Mises conducted his New York seminar for approximately two decades, yet it had surprisingly little impact on the economics profession." (Pg. 65-66)

Of Mises' masterwork, Human Action: A Treatise on Economics, she concludes, "Mises did not finally achieve what he set out to achieve: that is, to reformulate a generally accepted economic theory ...
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