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Lionel Robbins’ first-step individualism and the prehistory of microfoundations

Thiago Dumont Oliveira and Carlos Suprinyak ()
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Thiago Dumont Oliveira: N/A

No 537, Textos para Discussão Cedeplar-UFMG from Cedeplar, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais

Abstract: Robbins belongs to the prehistory of microfoundations, for his definition of economics helped to buttress the centrality that individual choice acquired after the Second World War. This, however, was an unintended effect of his seminal Essay. Our claim is that, underlying his definition of economics, a novel approach to methodological individualism is advanced, in which the isolated individual plays the role of a temporary device. The economic man is but a first step in order to analyze more complex social phenomena. More specifically, three types of methodological individualism are outlined and it is argued that Robbins’ approach cannot be classified as any of them; we thus propose a different category, that of ‘first-step individualism’. Robbins’ rationale for focusing on the isolated individual is not that social phenomena can be reduced to individual behaviour, but rather that this is the best starting point for economics, if it is to progress and be able to deal with more complex phenomena in the future.

Keywords: Lionel Robbins; Methodological Individualism; First Step Individualism (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: B20 B31 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-his and nep-hpe
Date: 2016-05
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