Erwin Dekker, The Viennese Students of Civilization: The Meaning and Context of Austrian Economics Reconsidered. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2016. xii + 236 pages. $110.00 (hardback)
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Imagine traveling back in time to Vienna circa 1870, to the time when Carl Menger published his Principles. Language problems aside, how much would we be able to understand about what was going on around us, simply by reading the newspaper or listening to people’s discussions? Imagine doing the same about 25 years later during the time of Böhm-Bawerk and Wieser in their late careers. And, finally, imagine going back to the Vienna of the 1920s and 1930s and observing the world in which Mises and Hayek lived. People who were native to Vienna at those times would have understood so much more by virtue of possessing that tacit knowledge that Hayek might have termed special to the circumstances of time, place, and context. Contemplating the writing of these “classical” Austrian economists from afar in both time and place, puts us at a decided disadvantage in understanding the purposes of their writing, and the nuances and stresses that influenced it.
While these writers and their...