Economics Broadly Considered: Essays in Honor of Warren J. Samuels

Economics Broadly Considered: Essays in Honor of Warren J. Samuels

Economics Broadly Considered: Essays in Honor of Warren J. Samuels

Economics Broadly Considered: Essays in Honor of Warren J. Samuels

Synopsis

Warren J. Samuels has been a prominent figure in the study of economics in the twentieth century. This book brings together essays by leading scholars in the areas of economics in which Samuels has made his most important contributions.

Excerpt

Economics broadly considered: a glance at Warren J. Samuels’ contributions to economics

Jeff E. Biddle, John B. Davis, and Steven G. Medema

Warren J. Samuels was born in New York City and grew up in Miami, Florida. He earned his B.A. from the University of Miami in 1954 and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin in 1957. After holding positions at the University of Missouri, Georgia State University, and the University of Miami, Samuels was Professor of Economics at Michigan State University from 1968 until his retirement in 1998 (for biographical details, see Samuels 1995 and Blaug 1999).

Samuels’ contributions to economics range widely across the discipline, but his most significant work, and the largest share of his corpus, falls within the history of economic thought, the economic role of government (and particularly law and economics), and economic methodology. All of this work has been undertaken against the backdrop of an institutional approach to economics and economic thought. Samuels was exposed to the institutional approach already during his undergraduate days at Miami, and he pursued the Ph.D. at Wisconsin because of its institutionalist tradition (then drawing to a close), as evidenced in faculty members such as Edwin Witte, Harold Groves, Martin Glaeser, Kenneth Parsons, and Robert Lampman.

Because of his institutionalist training, Samuels has always had a broad conception of what economics is and can be—something reflected in his scholarship in the history of economic thought and economic methodology as well. Unlike many (and perhaps most) contemporary institutionalists—but in common with, for example, John R. Commons—Samuels does not reject neoclassical economics, seeing it instead as useful for addressing certain types of problems but of limited utility in other contexts, in no small part because its a-institutional character begs certain important issues in economic theory and policy. Samuels’ broad-based approach to economic theory and policy analysis thus allows one to view the issues on which it is trained at a deeper and more sophisticated level, although, because of its nature, it often does not lend itself to the determination of the types of unique determinate optimal solutions so much in favor within modern economics.

The extent of Samuels’ contributions is made clear by the list of his publications reproduced at the end of this introduction. We cannot hope to survey this vast expanse here. Instead, we shall attempt to give the flavor of a

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