The Info List - Methodenstreit

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(German for "method dispute"), in intellectual history beyond German-language discourse, was an economics controversy commenced in the 1880s and persisting for more than a decade, between that field's Austrian School
Austrian School
and the (German) Historical School. The debate concerned the place of general theory in social science and the use of history in explaining the dynamics of human action. It also touched on policy and political issues, including the roles of the individual and state. Nevertheless, methodological concerns were uppermost and some early members of the Austrian School
Austrian School
also defended a form of welfare state, as prominently advocated by the Historical School. When the debate opened, Carl Menger
Carl Menger
developed the Austrian School's standpoint, and Gustav von Schmoller
Gustav von Schmoller
defended the approach of the Historical School. (In German-speaking countries, the original of this Germanism is not specific to the one controversy—which is likely to be specified as Methodenstreit
der Nationalökonomie, i.e. " Methodenstreit
of economics".)


1 History

1.1 Background 1.2 Menger and the German Historical School

2 Consequences 3 Related rivalry 4 See also 5 References 6 External links

History[edit] Background[edit]

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The Historical School contended that economists could develop new and better social laws from the collection and study of statistics and historical materials, and distrusted theories not derived from historical experience. Thus, the German Historical School focused on specific dynamic institutions as the largest variable in changes in political economy. The Historical School were themselves reacting against materialist determinism, the idea that human action could, and would (once science advanced enough), be explained as physical and chemical reactions.[1] The Austrian School, beginning with the work of Carl Menger
Carl Menger
in the 1860s, argued against this (in Grundsätze der Volkswirtschaftslehre, English title: Principles of Economics), that economics was the work of philosophical logic and could only ever be about developing rules from first principles — seeing human motives and social interaction as far too complex to be amenable to statistical analysis — and purporting to deduce universally valid precepts from human actions. Menger and the German Historical School[edit]

Untersuchungen über das Methode der socialwissenschaften und der politischen Ökonomie insbesondere, 1933

The first move was when Carl Menger
Carl Menger
attacked Schmoller and the German Historical School, in his 1883 book Investigations into the Method of the Social Sciences with Special
Reference to Economics (Untersuchungen über die Methode der Socialwissenschaften und der politischen Ökonomie insbesondere). Menger thought the best method of studying economics was through reason and finding general theories which applied to broad areas. Menger, as did the Austrians and other neo-classical economists, concentrated upon the subjective, atomistic nature of economics. He emphasized the subjective factors. He said the grounds for economics were built upon self-interest, evaluation on the margin, and incomplete knowledge. He said aggregative, collective ideas could not have adequate foundation unless they rested upon individual components. The direct attack on the German Historical School lead Schmoller to respond quickly with an unfavourable and quite hostile review of Menger's book.[2] Menger accepted the challenge and replied in a passionate pamphlet,[3] written in the form of letters to a friend, in which he (according to Hayek) "ruthlessly demolished Schmoller's position". The encounter between the masters was soon imitated by their disciples. A degree of hostility not often equaled in scientific controversy developed.[4] Consequences[edit] The term "Austrian school of economics" came into existence as a result of the Methodenstreit, when Schmoller used it in an unfavourable review of one of Menger's later books, intending to convey an impression of backwardness and obscurantism of Habsburg Austria compared to the more modern Prussians. A serious consequence of the hostile debate was that Schmoller went so far as to declare publicly that members of the "abstract" school were unfit to fill a teaching position in a German university, and his influence was quite sufficient to make this equivalent to a complete exclusion of all adherents to Menger's doctrines from academic positions in Germany. The result was that even thirty years after the close of the controversy Germany was still less affected by the new ideas now spreading elsewhere, than any other academically important country in the world.[5] Related rivalry[edit] Another famous — and somewhat related — Methodenstreit
in the 1890s pitted the German social and economic historian Karl Lamprecht against several prominent political historians, particularly Friedrich Meinecke, over Lamprecht's use of social scientific and psychological methods in his research. The dispute resulted in Lamprecht and his work being widely discredited among academic German historians. As a consequence, German historians pursued more political and ideological historical questions, while Lamprecht's style of interdisciplinary history was largely abandoned. Lamprecht's work remained influential elsewhere, however, particularly in the tradition of the French Annales School. See also[edit]

Economic methodology Philosophy of mathematics Philosophy of science Positive economics Unreasonable ineffectiveness of mathematics


^ Mises, Ludwig von: "The Historical Setting of the Austrian School
Austrian School
of Economics" ^ "Zur Methodologie der Staats- und Sozialwissenschaften" in Jahrbuch für Gesetzgebung, Verwaltung und Volkswirtschaft im deutschen Reich 1883. ^ Irrthümer des Historismus in der deutschen Nationalökonomie, 1884 ^ 'Carl Menger'. Introduction by Friedrich A. Hayek, printed in the English translation of Carl Menger's Principles of Economics, New York University Press, 1981. page 24. ^ 'Carl Menger'. Introduction by Friedrich A. Hayek, printed in the English translation of Carl Menger's Principles of Economics, New York University Press, 1981. page 25.

External links[edit]

Principles of Economics
by Carl Menger Investigations into the Method of the Social Sciences with Special Reference to Economics
by Carl Menger Epistemological Problems of Economics
by Ludwig von Mises The Historical Setting of the Austrian School
Austrian School
of Economics
by Ludwig von Mises

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Antihumanism Empiricism Rationalism Scientism


Legal positivism Logical positivism / analytic philosophy Positivist school Postpositivism Sociological positivism Machian positivism (empiriocriticism) Rankean historical positivism Polish positivism Russian positivism (empiriomonism)

Principal concepts

Consilience Demarcation Evidence Induction Justificationism Pseudoscience Critique of metaphysics Unity of science Verificationism


Antipositivism Confirmation holism Critical theory Falsifiability Geisteswissenschaft Hermeneutics Historicism Historism Human science Humanities Problem of induction Reflectivism

Related paradigm shifts in the history of science

Non-Euclidean geometry
Non-Euclidean geometry
(1830s) Heisenberg uncertainty principle (1927)

Related topics

Behavioralism Critical rationalism Criticism of science Epistemological idealism Epistemology Holism in anthropology Instrumentalism Modernism Naturalism in literature Nomothetic–idiographic distinction Objectivity in science Operationalism Phenomenalism Philosophy of science

Deductive-nomological model Ramsey sentence Sense-data theory

Qualitative research Relationship between religion and science Sociology Social science
Social science
(Philosophy) Structural functionalism Structuralism Structuration theory

Positivist-related debate


1890s  Methodenstreit
(economics) 1909–1959 Werturteilsstreit 1960s Positivismusstreit 1980s Fourth Great Debate in international relations 1990s Science Wars


1830 The Course in Positive Philosophy 1848 A General View of Positivism 1869 Critical History of Philosophy 1879 Idealism and Positivism 1886 The Analysis of Sensations 1927 The Logic of Modern Physics 1936 Language, Truth, and Logic 1959 The Two Cultures 2001 The Universe in a Nutshell


Richard Avenarius A. J. Ayer Auguste Comte Eugen Dühring Émile Durkheim Ernst Laas Ernst Mach Berlin Circle Vienna Circle


1909 Materialism and Empirio-criticism 1923 History and Class Consciousness 1934 The Logic of Scientific Discovery 1936 The Poverty of Historicism 1942 World Hypotheses 1951 Two Dogmas of Empiricism 1960  Truth
and Method 1962 The Structure of Scientific Revolutions 1963 Conjectures and Refutations 1964 One-Dimensional Man 1968  Knowledge
and Human Interests 1978 The Poverty of Theory 1980 The Scientific Image 1986 The Rhetoric of Economics


Theodor W. Adorno Gaston Bachelard Mario Bunge Wilhelm Dilthey Paul Feyerabend Hans-Georg Gadamer Thomas Kuhn György Lukács Karl Popper Willard Van Orman Quine Max Weber

Concepts in contention

Knowledge Phronesis Truth Verste