Walrasian Economics


  • Pages: 367
  • Format: PDF
  • Published Date: 2006


Walrasian Economics is about Walrasian economics, meaning the economics of L´eon Walras and the economics in which other scholars have used his ideas. It has two general objectives. One is to present an accurate account of the foundations and basic components of Walras’s models of general economic equilibration and equilibrium.


The approach taken here therefore follows the advice of Fran¸cois Bompaire. It is Bompaire to whom credit must be given for having been the first to declare that an understanding of Walras’s theories (and Cournot’s and Vilfredo Pareto’s as well) requires a study of all his scholarly writings, not just his models and equations.

Bompaire gave a detailed literary exposition of Walras’s general equilibrium economics as it relates to a laissez-faire competitive economy, and examinedWalras’s equations. Regarding not only Walras but Cournot and Pareto as well, however, he emphasized that:

The reader should not expect to find that our study has a purely economic and mathematical character.We have studied our authors as they are, bringing together all their writings, economic, mathematical, political, sociological, philosophic, in order to attain the best possible knowledge of their true thought in regard to the good and the bad effects of the principle of liberty.

Walrasian Economics seeks to systematize the aspects of that legacy and thus to construct the foundations for a wider consensus on Walras’s work than now exists; it capitalizes on the broad agreement that exists about many important Walrasian matters.

All economists now recognize, of course, that his conception of general equilibrium is his most important contribution, even though the agreement is qualified because we do not all have the same understanding of what that conception is.

There is also general agreement about the characteristics of specific aspects of his work: about his 1889 model of exchange in a temporarily isolated freely competitive market, for example, along with his theory of consumer demand and his treatment of the economics of the firm.

Walrasian Economics validates the realization by modern Walrasian scholars that his contributions have a much wider range, diversity, and richness than was thought to be the case in previous years, a realization that enables the introduction here of new and wider perspectives on Walras’s theoretical legacy.

Walrasian Economics puts into place the last major necessary rectification of the interpretation of his scientific economic thought, namely an accurate and balanced account of his philosophical and methodological views, one that recognizes and meticulously documents the very extensive empiricist aspects of his philosophy and methodology.

With that rectification, and with the exposition of his views on human nature, the analysis of the major components of his mature comprehensive model, the characterization of his written pledges sketch, and the emphasis upon the structure and functioning of his models rather than upon his equation systems, the major part of the heuristic scheme falls into place and a new interpretative synthesis of his economic theorizing is achieved.

The synthesis provides a truly rich, more complete, and coherent picture ofWalras’s contributions and thus provides the foundation for a consensus on the character of his legacy.


Part I. Walras’s ideas

  • Section I. The foundations ofWalras’s mature comprehensive model
  • Section II. The written pledges sketch
  • Section III. Walras’s writings

Part II. Walras’s influence