The Theory and Measurement of Influence in the History of Economic Thought

  • Peter R. Senn
Part of the European Heritage in Economics and the Social Sciences book series (EHES, volume 5)


Despite the fact that the study of influence is the central task of the historian of economic thought, there is no generally accepted theory of influence either in the social sciences or in the history of economic thought. Foundational methodological issues such as influence on what and by what means and tracing and measuring influence are the subjects of this paper. The paper is both a commentary on the present understanding of influence in the history of economic thought and a prolegomenon to a more general theory of influence in the history of economic thought. It focuses on how the ideas that make up the corpus of economics are transmitted from one economist to the other. The conclusion is that no general theory of influence for the history of economic thought is possible at the present time. A general theory may never be possible because different scholars will probably continue to interpret the term “influence” differently.


General theory of influence in the history of economic thought influence economic theory 


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