Economics has developed into one of the most specialised social sciences. Yet it shares much of its subject matter with other social sciences and the humanities. At the same time, its methods of inquiry have been compared to those found in the natural and life sciences. In many ways thus, economics is open. Its canvas opens up beyond disciplinary boundaries, traditionally conceived. The present volume offers an up-to-date assessment of this openness of economics in relation to other academic disciplines. Our vantage point is historical, since it is only from a historical perspective that many of the salient points of contact between the disciplines become apparent. A narrow contemporary perspective might suggest that parts of the economic literature are hermetically inward-looking, driven entirely by what Kuhn (1970: 36) has so pertinently described as the challenge of the myriad of puzzles found in the mundane pursuit of normal science that allows the armies of expert puzzle solvers to prove their mettle again and again. However, historiography opens up the disciplinary black box by accounting for the trajectories through which economics, like any other field of inquiry, legitimised itself in its separateness from these ‘other’ fields. As just one aspect of this apparent and much commented-upon divide, let

us consider how economics, as a social scientific discipline, is often praised as the ‘queen’ of the social sciences. When one finds this accolade applied to other fields, such as political philosophy, or sociology, it is largely based on the claim that these fields deserve special status due to being foundational or primary in a sense that comparable fields of inquiry are not (Strauss 1964: 1, cf. Jaffa 1994: 202; Straus 2001: 14). In the case of economics by contrast, eminence is more often than not claimed on grounds of formal rigour and scientific method (cf. Mäki 2002; Ioannides and Nielsen 2007). Any cursory glance through the leading scholarly journals in economics will confirm that economic research today is typically of a technical and highly specialised nature. For a discipline that traces its roots to moral and social philosophy, this is a remarkable metamorphosis. It resonates with the impression, confirmed by historical analysis, of a disciplinary trajectory characterised not only by an increasing autonomy in respect to neighbouring disciplines and alternative approaches (Cambridge 27, 2001; Yonay 1998, Hausman 1992;

Augello and Guidi 2001), but also by an increasing autonomy from (its) history (Hodgson 2001; Blaug 2001; Weintraub 2002b). The first kind of autonomy has made possible the phenomenon of ‘eco-

nomic imperialism’, the process by which those, in the words of a recent Nobel Laureate, ‘contiguous’ disciplines (Coase 1977) become reconceptualised quite literally in economic terms. Whether or not such moves in the direction of explanatory unification are to be welcomed or not on methodological grounds, their impact on contemporary social science has been significant (e.g. Fine 2001; Chuah 2006; Campbell and Klaes 2008). The second kind of autonomy, much discussed by historians of economics, is reflected in the shape of the modern economics curriculum, which has all but shed substantive reference to, let alone training in, the discipline’s past (cf. Winch 1962; Backhouse 2002; Gayer 2002). Advanced training in economics today has much to do with demonstrating skill in the latest techniques of analysis, and very little with grasping conceptual trajectories and disciplinary roots (Klamer and Colander 1990; Colander 2007). Some might argue that this is as it should be. And yet, as the essays in this

volume demonstrate, shutting one’s eyes completely to the disciplinary and historical context of economics means missing not only much of its intellectual legacy, but also much of the present-day subtlety of both the relation of economics to its past, and of its position as a social science among other social sciences and the humanities, and alongside the natural and life sciences. The present volume addresses these issues in a two-step approach. In its

first half, two broadly synthetic parts offer three distinct and historically informed appraisals each, one set looking at the position of economics vis-àvis the social sciences and humanities, the other doing the same for the natural and life sciences. In its second half, the volume combines four shorter parts into an eclectic survey of historiographic encounters between economics and selected fields of inquiry that range from mathematics to architecture and urban development. Turning to the first group of chapters, by Brian Loasby, Bruna Ingrao, and

Pier Luigi Porta, we find strong evidence for substantive links between the study of the mind, in its psychological, social, and literary aspects, and the study of economic phenomena. Brian Loasby argues that economics should more strongly reflect a basic understanding of the cognitive limits and the cognitive potential of the human mind, in a context of pervasive uncertainty and therefore of pervasive scope for imagination. As a result for him, much of modern economics is seriously undersocialised because it fails to take account of imaginative powers of the human mind. Setting the tone for the chapters that follow, Loasby uses the historiographic idiom to great effect, drawing a masterly synthesis between Adam Smith’s system of social science, and the complementary theories of the human mind developed independently by Smith, Marshall and Hayek. Bruna Ingrao takes the theme of imagination to a terrain relatively unfamiliar

both to economists engaged in reflective engagement with their discipline, and

historians of economics more generally. Offering a survey of approaches from the perspective of biography, sociology and history of ideas, her chapter engages with underlying ideological debates, the personal relationships among economists and writers, and the diffusion of ideas about economics or the role of economic activities through literary works. At the heart of her analysis, she uncovers a fundamental tension implicit in the alternative considerations of human action that we can find in literary and economistic ways of looking at the world as they evolved in contemporary culture. A variation of this tension forms the central concern of Pier Luigi Porta’s

chapter. On the surface, it offers a reconstruction of Pietro Verri’s eighteenthcentury political economy, mainly on the basis of his Meditazioni sulla economia politica of 1771. But Porta extends this into a demonstration of a fundamental unity running through Verri’s work, which points us to the insight that cognitivism has been at the heart of economic inquiry since its classical beginnings, although economists appear to have lost trace of it through the decades. Porta convincingly argues that since, historically, the relationship between economics and psychology has been rather twisted, the historicoanalytic perspective becomes essential for capturing the drift and novelty of the current frontier of research in behavioural economics. This research embodies a retrieval of the tradition of classical utilitarianism, from Jeremy Bentham down to John Stuart Mill and eventually to the Milanese school of the eighteenth century. This applies in particular to the study of the economics of happiness, which is gaining momentum from different sources today, notably from cognitive economics. Part II of the present volume takes the reader from the lofty world of eco-

nomic imagination, in its social psychological and literary dimensions, to the dire straits of moral Newtonianism, evolutionary biology, and the anatomy of the human body. Sergio Cremaschi reconstructs the co-existence of a range of positive theories, methodological recipes and encompassing worldviews in the Scottish Enlightenment. When what was at issue related to the interaction between natural science and theology, ‘experimental’ approaches to social phenomena suggested themselves in ways not considered before, drawing from key organising metaphors such as equilibrium, circulation, and value. Ultimately, Cremaschi’s point is a historiographic one, in that Canguilhem’s lesson – namely that scientific change is produced not only by similarity but also by opposition – may be applied also to the history of economic thought. Mark Harrison reviews Veblen’s evolutionary explanation of the origin of

human instincts in the light of modern biological theory. Veblen’s evolutionary models were crude by modern standards, but recent theory in evolutionary biology provides models that quite readily explain how instincts for workmanship and sportsmanship could have evolved. The instinct of workmanship, according to Veblen, motivates the organism to act in such a way as to effectively and efficiently fulfill the desires determined by other instincts, and thereby to improve reproductive fitness. This idea of intentional behaviour is implicit in modern evolutionary models. While Veblen’s explanations of the evolutionary

origin of altruistic workmanship and of sportsmanship seem incomplete today, his conclusions about the nature of human instincts remain plausible. The excursion into the natural, biological and life sciences is completed by

Alain Clément and Ludovic Desmedt’s investigation of the co-evolution of medical and economic thought in pre-classical economics. The study of wealth and that of biology, anatomy and medicine seem worlds apart. But as the authors do not tire of explaining, many of those busy developing political economy were also physicians or professors of anatomy engaged in the investigation of physiological principles. The newly developing economic science was searching for a principle around which to order itself and took the natural sciences as its model. In most works of the period, man as a physical entity served as a model for understanding the functions of the economy. The implication was that an understanding of the workings of the human body would explain the workings of the political body. But the question naturally arises as to whether such a comparison could produce any genuine economic knowledge. Clément and Desmedt argue that, not only did the body politic/human body analogy lead to an improved understanding of economic phenomena, it triggered the conceptualisation of several mechanisms, including the circulation of money, the division of labour, and the hierarchy of economic activity. Even more strongly resonating at the time we write this are the distant echoes that the authors trace from the analysis of illnesses to the dysfunctions of the economic system. This takes us to the second half of the present volume, where the reader

will find four shorter parts that together form an eclectic survey of historiographic encounters between economics and selected fields of inquiry, ranging from mathematics to architecture and urban development. Nicola Giocoli takes the lead with a chapter based on his 2005 Blanqui Lecture ‘In the Sign of the Axiomatic Method’.1 He looks into the economists’ understanding of analytical rigour, finding that their ambitions, initially guided during the nineteenth century by the scientist accolades of Newtonian mechanics, led them eventually to embrace a purely mathematical notion of axiomatic rigour. He questions the standard explanation of this shift, in terms of the discipline’s increasing awareness of its lack of good experimental and observational data, and thus of its intrinsic inability to fully abide by the guiding methodological principles of classical physics. Giocoli argues convincingly that this story fails to do justice to the transformation that the notion of rigour underwent itself during this period. He traces this transformation from the so-called formalist revolution in mathematics to post-war economists’ urge to push core organising concepts of their discipline to the impressive level of generality achieved in the pure theory of general competitive equilibrium and the various twentiethcentury incarnations of game theory. The chapter closes with a fascinating account of how this new economic rigour fared in court proceedings. Giovanna Garrone and Roberto Marchionatti pursue the notion of math-

ematical rigour further into the field of applied statistics as it established itself within economics under the label of ‘econometrics’. A key moment of this

episode can be traced to Keynes’s 1939 critique of Tinbergen’s first League of Nations study. With Haavelmo and the establishment of the Cowles Commission approach, the prevailing view was that Keynes was an a priori antieconometrician. However, since the end of the 1970s, new contributions have recognised that Keynes’s criticism of Tinbergen was sound on many points. The chapter reconsiders the nature of Keynes’s arguments, finding no evidence for regarding Keynes as a critic and an opponent of econometric work per se. What he opposed were the attempts at statistical inference without any prior effort of ascertaining the suitability of the economic material for making such inferences. Methodologically, therefore, the debate turned on conflicting understandings of formal rigour, albeit implicitly so. The next couple of chapters take us from economic modernism to mod-

ernism more conventionally understood and as found most prominently in the field of architecture. Maurice Lagueux argues the case for regarding architecture as the fine art that shares the most with economics. He notes that, in contrast to other arts, architecture is practised by professionals whose business is to meet, at reasonable cost, important needs of customers who must be convinced with the help of usual marketing techniques. In this sense, their enterprise can be analysed, as any other, with the standard tools of economics. What is more remarkable is that, in their practice, architects have developed some theoretical principles that are very similar to the basic principles of economics. He points us to common features such as the role of rationality, the strategies to solve problems of maximisation under cost constraints, the challenge of obtaining more with less, the conflict between modernism and postmodernist trends and, more generally, the tension between the will to transform society and the limitations associated with technology, traditions and ecological considerations. Importantly, his chapter underscores the existence of a noticeable parallel between the respective historical developments of these two disciplines, such as between the early twentieth-century neoclassical school in economics and the modernist style in architecture. The following chapter follows this homomorphism into the applied field of

urban planning. In it, Michele Alacevich and Andrea Costa examine the strong interrelations between urban planning and economic planning that developed in the early 1950s in Latin America, where arguably the multifaceted programming effort of the post-Second World War era gained its greater momentum. The plan was considered the main tool, common to economic as well as to urban policies, while equilibrium was the principal concept which framed the elaboration and the implementation of any development plan. Alacevich and Costa pay particular attention to the case of Colombia, visited by some of the most illustrious modernist architects such as Le Corbusier and José Luis Sert, who were attracted by the chance to realise urban plans at a scope that had simply not been possible in Europe. The result was a particularly close symbiosis between economic and urban planning. Proceeding from these outlooks on the interpenetration of architecture and

economics, the next two chapters invite us to consider the spatiality of economic

phenomena in more general terms. Giovanna Vertova examines how space, agglomeration and external economies have been theorised. She identifies three kinds of spatiality in economic thought. The German school of location theory, the ‘new economic geography’ and the ‘new industrial space’ can be traced back to the Walrasian tradition in economics. The Marshallian tradition embraces the literature on industrial districts, systems of innovation, and learning regions. The Marxian tradition finally can be found in the work of economic geographers, such as David Harvey, Richard Walker and Doreen Massey. Vertova’s point is that, while all three conceptualisations of economic space could be used to shed light on the phenomenon of so-called globalisation, each tradition leads to different policy implications. Hugh Goodacre traces economic spatiality further back, to the work of Wil-

liam Petty. He urges us to acknowledge that much of the analytical apparatus in use by economists today was first forged and set to work in the service of the bureaucratic-military officialdom and predatory colonialism of seventeenthcentury England, and not, as often assumed, in the European Enlightenment. Petty’s logic of space drew directly on his experience as surveyor of Ireland during the Cromwellian occupation of that country, and ultimately drove him to advocate the transfer of much of the population of Ireland into England. In the course of elaborating this scheme, he drew together strands of economic and geographical thought that have remained intertwined till today, from Thünen’s seminal theory of agricultural rent to the ‘new’ economic geography of Paul Krugman. In the final couple of chapters we revert to the focus of Part I on economics

in its relation to the humanities and other social sciences. Whereas, there, the emphasis was on synthetic coverage, here two very specific issues are explored. Joachim Zweynert tackles the thorny question of economic historicity. Arguably Polanyi’s ‘great transformation’ caused severe tensions between premodern habits of life and thought and emerging modernity. These tensions are clearly expressed in the writings of the German historical school, epitomised by the work of Gustav Schmoller and Werner Sombart. One of their key themes is the transition from Gemeinschaft (community) to Gesellschaft (society) and more precisely the issue of how solidarity between people can be maintained in the Capitalist Age, which tends to objectify social relations. Schmoller generally advocated what modern sociologists call functional differentiation of society, but held that this process needed a counterweight in the maintenance of a minimum of paternalistic social relations. Sombart, by contrast, was opposed to the very idea of functional differentiation between economy and society. While Schmoller persisted in attempting to reconcile the two competing currents of sociological thought, Sombart broke with the tradition that had been founded by Adam Smith and which therefore lay also at the very heart of the classical-neoclassical tradition of economic thought. To him, capitalism had only one social consequence, namely to destroy the old bonds between individuals, which could only be restored by a return to some community-type social ties. Therefore the question of how capitalism could be

overcome stood in the centre of his thought from the beginning. The connection between his basic sociological position and his anti-capitalism is obvious: If the capitalist economic system, i.e. the spontaneous actions of exchange, does not create order but even endangers the cohesion of society, then the institutional separation between the state and the economy has to be eliminated and the economic system has to be reintegrated into the political body. And yet this is precisely the position which Peter F. Drucker saw as a part of the intellectual soil in which totalitarian ideology could take root. This leads us to the final chapter of the present collection, which illustrates

particularly well how a historiographic approach that turns on the openness of economic inquiry towards other fields of thought can produce illuminating economic insights that feed directly into present-day economic thought and theorising. Where the previous chapter reminded us of the spectre of human evil and how its roots may grow from the prima facie innocuous and well intentioned intellectual pursuit of the economic good, Isabelle This Saint-Jean raises the pertinent question of why it is that economists have been reluctant to address evil intention and effect in the working of the economy, not just in a morally descriptive sense, but rather in a deeply probing foundational sense. She identifies a fundamental bias in economic thought towards regarding interpersonal relations as ‘good’ for individuals. Economists typically understand interaction between otherwise isolated individuals as giving rise to opportunities for material gain for the both parties in the relation. Furthermore, individuals are usually conceptualised as benevolent, maybe altruistic. At the opposite end of this spectrum, they are at worst assumed indifferent and egoist. Yet in economic models we rarely meet agents with negative feelings towards each other. This Saint-Jean’s chapter explores the implications of the proposition of Homo oeconomicus as a ‘bad guy’, by drawing attention to the vertical dimension of social relationships, which has to do with hierarchy and power, and by revisiting the philosophical literature on man in his relation with others. This final chapter asks us to probe more deeply why it seems so difficult in economics to accept individuals not merely as seeking their selfinterest ‘with guile’, but as potentially ethically flawed characters. Perhaps, suggests This Saint-Jean, the reasons might be sought in the fact that economists, in assuming individuals who are envious, full of hatred and ill will or motivated by anger, fear taking the risk of opening the door to the formidable question of the foundation of social order that they have, if not resolved, then at least moved aside with the assumption of Homo oeconomicus and with the studied indifference this agent displays towards others. These chapters provide exemplars for exploring the history of economic

thought in relation to the history of a wide range of other disciplines. There is much discussion at the leading edges of modern economics about openness to other disciplines, such as psychology and sociology. But what we see here is that economics has drawn on (as well as contributed to) other disciplines throughout its history. In this sense, in spite of the increasing specialisation within all disciplines, economics has always been an open discipline.