Contrasting Historical-Logical Narrative Conventions in Germany and Austria and Their Influence upon Inquiry and Explanation in the Arts and the Sciences: An Example from the Economic Inquiries of Gustav Schmoller, Max Weber, Carl Menger, and Ludwig von Mises

  • Mark E. Blum
Part of the European Heritage in Economics and the Social Sciences book series (EHES, volume 5)


A narrative is a historical order of occurrences that implies relationships, cause and effect, and temporal characteristics such as continuity, discontinuity, change, and duration. Narratives are present not only in novels, stories, and drama, but in any account of an episode in time or state-of-affairs, thus are integral to any art or science. A central premise of this essay is that within a national culture there are certain characteristic patterns of historical order and historical conceptualization shared by all disciplines in the arts and the sciences in an epoch. Europe between the Enlightenment and the present is such an epoch. Normative narrative characteristics form gradually and are slow to change. They are formed in reaction and response to the challenges of that nation’s political-social experience, and are imparted through the authoritative persons in the many areas of public inquiry and practice. Significant differences in these narrative norms can be delineated between Western nations, relative to their particular mutual experiences and singular reaction and response to the general political-social-economic challenges of a time–as this essay argues in considering the Germanies and Austria since the Enlightenment. Comprehension of the claims of objective truth or mimetic accuracy in all fields is shown to hinge upon how events are structured in the descriptions and explanations within a national culture. I term these narrative norms the historical-logical perspective of the national culture.

The “national economics” of the Germans Gustav Schmoller and Max Weber and the Austrians Carl Menger and Ludwig von Mises are examined and explicated through attention to the characteristic traits of their respective narratives.

The guiding concepts of the individuals are seen in their relationship to the manner in which events–in their structure and sequence–are conceived by their national culture.

The German narrative stresses ceaseless change in conditions and institutions. here is a dialectical transformation of the existing whereby higher levels of insight and organization reconfigure history. Encounter is the rule between persons, states, and even natural forces. There is a sense that one principle is at work in a time that subsumes or unifies all others. The Austrian narrative, on the other hand, stresses duration over time in all persons and things: life in the present is a maturation of cultural or natural forms that began or can be identified in previous generations. Interpersonal cooperation is the rule, with an eye toward the entire ecology of interests that must be integrated. Rather than one principle, for the Austrian each single interest in its aggregative sum determines what occurs in history

The etiology of these narrative characteristics that form the historical-logical “plot” of artistic and scientific description and explanation in the Germanies and Austria is traced to each nation’s political-social experience. Adhering to Hayden White’s reiteration of Aristotle, essentially the human is a zoon politikon.


German historiography Austrian historiography Hayden White historical logic Gustav Schmoller Carl Menger Max Weber Ludwig von Mises 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark E. Blum
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of HistoryUniversity of LouisvilleLouisville

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