Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen edited the English translation of Hermann Heinrich Gossen’s 1854 book The Laws of Human Relations and wrote a lengthy introduction to it. His highly appreciative, thoroughly documented study has become a major reference on an otherwise little-known early writer. It suggests that Gossen was unjustly ignored by his contemporaries, just as Georgescu-Roegen felt that his own contributions to economics were insufficiently recognized. Yet it was not only a personal motive that inspired Georgescu-Roegen’s editorial enterprise: I show that his original plan was to build a model of consumer choice, drawing on Gossen, to address what he saw as essential theoretical issues. The completion of the book project took almost twenty years (it was not published until 1983), during which external circumstances and analytical difficulties gradually eroded the initial theoretical interests, while a sense of self-identification with Gossen gained prominence. As a result, major issues remained ultimately unsolved. The history of economics, originally intended to aid economic theory-building, became the key for sublimating personal feelings into a broader reflection on science in society, beyond time and space differences.
Skip Nav Destination
Paola Tubaro; A Tale of Two Destinies: Georgescu-Roegen on Gossen. History of Political Economy 1 March 2014; 46 (1): 33–54. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00182702-2398921
Download citation file: