From Marginalism to Modern Sociology

  • Simon Clarke


The ‘marginalist revolution’ emerged in response to the problem of conceptualising both the possibilities and limits of social reform, so overcoming the apparently unbridgeable gap between the dogmatic liberalism of political economy and the opportunistic reformism of sociology and historicism. Many of the marginalists came to economics specifically in order to give a rigorous foundation to sociology and to historicism. Menger and Walras saw their work as bringing rigour to the tradition of ‘vulgar economy’ associated with the German Historical School. Jevons formulated his economics within a Spencerian framework, while Wieser was also inspired to turn to economics by reading Spencer. Walras formulated his economics within a reformist framework that owed much to Comte and St Simon, while Wicksteed came to marginalism from Comte and Henry George. Alfred Marshall had studied moral sciences and saw economics as a continuation of those studies. Thus marginalism developed not in opposition to the sociological and historicist traditions, but as an essential complement to them, providing the rigorous foundation that they had hitherto lacked.


Social Economic Capitalist Society Instrumental Rationality Capitalist Rationality Historical School 
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Copyright information

© Simon Clarke 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Simon Clarke
    • 1
  1. 1.University of WarwickUK

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