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Schmoller Revisited

October 4, 2006

[Cross posted at Organizations and Markets]

The Jahrbuch für Gesetzgebung, Verwaltung, und Volkswirtschaft, edited by Gusav Schmoller — commonly known as Schmollers Jahrbuch — was one of the most important and influential economics journals of the nineteenth century. Schmoller was the leader of the younger German Historical School and the main opponent of Carl Menger in the Methodenstreit, or battle over methods, that raged between the German historicists and the fledgling Austrian School. (It was Schmoller and his followers who coined the phrase "Austrian School," the word Austrian being synonymous, among German-speaking intellectuals, for "inferior" or "second-rate.")

Schmoller and his school are little known to contemporary social scientists, suffering the same fate that befell their American disciples, the Institutionalists Thorstein Veblen, John R. Commons, and Wesley Clair Mitchell. (As Coase once remarked: "Without a theory they had nothing to pass on except a mass of descriptive material waiting for a theory, or a fire.") To my surprise I received an email today announcing a new issue of Schmollers Jahrbuch. I had no idea the journal was still being published. The announcement was for a special issue, "Schmoller's Legacy for the 21st Century." Papers include "Schmoller's Impact on the Anglophone Literature in Economics" by Geoffrey Hodgson, "Schmoller and Modern Sociology" by Yuichi Shionoya, "Gustav Schmoller, His Heirs and the Foundation of Today´s Social Policy" by Gerold Blümle and Nils Goldschmidt, and "Gustav Schmoller and Globalisation" by Heinz Rieter and Joachim Zweynert.

Incidentally, Murray Rothbard used to tell the story that during an intense (but friendly) disagreement between himself and Mises at Mises's New York seminar Mises teasingly called him a "Schmollerite" — the ultimate insult to an Austrian economist!

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