This book is the PHD dissertation of Israel Kirzner, the most important Austrian economist of the second half of the 20th century. Kirzner's dissertation is about the evolution of the concept of economics that economists held through the history of economic thought. He starts with the conceptions of the classical economists of economics as an science of wealth, and gradually progresses to reach the cutting edge in the methodological understanding of economics (by his point of view writing in the late 50's) as the science of Human Action, articulated in its best and most complete form by Mises in his Human Action.
The book is about the history of economic thought on most fundamental methodological problems that faced and currently face the science of economics, about the very meaning of economics as an field of research. Highly recommended for someone who wishes to focus on a deeper study of Austrian economics.
Also, the book includes the debate between Gary Becker and Kirzner about the consequences of irrationality for economic theory. Becker defends the point of view that economics doesn't need to assume rational agents to yield the most important results of price theory. Kirzner them shows the importance of rationality not for the determination of the equilibrium allocations of the market but for the process of reaching the economic equilibrium: agents need to be rational to learn about the situation of the market and adjust their plans in order to generate tendencies towards coordination of plans, and therefore, to reach the equilibrium.
Israel Kirzner is one of two preeminent Austrian economists who had the benefit of learning from the great Ludwig von Mises. In this volume Kirzner explores the Austrian School's disciplined approach that is useful in clear thinking and exposing modern obscurantist economics for what it is - justification for what the looters in government intend to do anyway. If you'd like to know why prices are what they are at a given time, why a government caused boom from central banking is always followed by a destructive bust and why socialism not only doesn't work, but cannot work this is a book for you.