The relationship between economics and anti-Semitism has always been a controversial subject. The question is complex by nature: to describe an author as an anti-Semite means to cast a shadow over his thought, with consequences that are much more serious when there is a limited amount of documentation and firsthand accounts. In this article we examine the case of Maffeo Pantaleoni, one of the most influential Italian economists of the nineteenth century and at the same time an intellectual who was among those most closely involved in anti-Semitic propaganda. In the case of Pantaleoni, it is not necessary to ask the question of whether and to what extent his anti-Semitism could be defined as “mild” or “ambivalent” and therefore in line with that expressed by a large part of Western culture during the first half of the twentieth century. In this study we document a clear and open anti-Semitic attitude that, however, has remained ignored up to now by economic historiography. In this article we discuss the possible relationship between Pantaleoni’s anti-Semitism and his work as a theoretical economist, within a methodological framework inspired by Pierre Bourdieu’s philosophy and sociology of science.

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