Robert Heilbroner: “The prestige accorded to mathematics in economics has given it rigor, but, alas, also mortis”

Economics is not a scientific discipline like the natural sciences, and that no cumulative advance describes its changeful form over the years… The chapter we call modern economics, compared with earlier chapters of our discipline, is shallow and poor rather than deep and rich, and the intellectual puzzle of some future time will be to account for the failure rather than the success of the period in which we have lived… The prestige accorded to mathematics in economics has given it rigor, but, alas, also mortis.” (Heilbroner 1979: 193, 196)

Robert L. Heilbroner (1919 – 2005) was an notable American economist and historian of economic thought. The author of some twenty books, Heilbroner is best known for The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times and Ideas of the Great Economic Thinkers (1953), which is one of the most widely read economics books of all time.
This quote taken from “Modern Economics As a Chapter in the History of Economic Thought” – his short and sharp critique of economics, published in 1979. Back then, Heilbroner keenly observed and pointed out the fundamental flaws of neoclassical economics, including a superficial mathematical trend which hinders to understand the socio-economic reality and problems of a society.

Robert Heilbroner

Robert L. Heilbroner. 1979. “Modern Economics As a Chapter in the History of Economic Thought.” History of Political Economy 11 (2): 192-198.

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