In this last chapter, it is proposed to examine what made Austrian Marginalism (Menger’s version of the marginalist line of reasoning, its principles and its consequences) so special that it stood out as peculiar, not only in Menger’s own times, but since then as well. The ‘Austrian School’, labelled after its geographical origin in the capital city of an empire, which was downsized, after defeat in the First World War, to the size of a province, has remained a unique case in the history of economic thought: both originally one major source of Marginalism, and yet deﬁnitely foreign, or rather at times downright hostile to major aspects of what Marginalism would contribute to bring about, namely neoclassical thought and so-called ‘mainstream’ economies. With that special role and that general framework in mind, it is only
through a detailed analysis of what happened at the beginnings, in the 1870s and 1880s, that some of the philological and philosophical grounds for that non-conformist evolution can be understood. In particular, we will insist on what diﬀerentiated Menger from, on the one hand, some of the ‘predecessors’ whom commentators later wished to recognize as ‘precursors’ (such as Hermann Heinrich Gossen or Karl Heinrich Rau, so-called German ‘proto-neoclassical’ writers1) and, on the other hand, from the other ‘founding fathers’ of Marginalism, Walras and Jevons, his contemporaries and co-founders of that school of thought. We will ﬁnally brieﬂy venture beyond the era of Menger, like in the previous
chapter and, even though it marks the end of our investigations in the realm of German-speaking political economy, indicate a few elements indispensable in order to understand what happened to Menger’s ideas and why that wealth of resources provided by his archives, that should have been utilized, has not been, even among his heirs: there is a whole ‘work-in-progress’, that has somehow been left in quasi-oblivion. That is what we utilize, as sources and benchmarks, in the previous chapters and in this one. Without that evidence, commentaries on Menger’s work have been plagued by intuitions. It was time that Menger’s studies were looked at again.