1st Edition

Arthur Spiethoff and the German Historical School of Economics Continuities and Discontinuities

By Vitantonio Gioia Copyright 2024

    Arthur Spiethoff (1873–1957), an economist of the German Historical School of Economics, is best known for his theory of the business cycle. Despite Spiethoff calling for a unified reading of his work, his epistemological thinking has received less attention. This book addresses that gap by analysing Spiethoff’s theory of the business cycle in the light of his epistemological views. Putting Spiethoff’s work in context, the book also investigates the most significant features of the evolution of the “research programme” of the German Historical School of Economics, with particular reference to the relationships between Schmoller, Sombart, Weber and Spiethoff. In addition, Spiethoff’s work is compared with some of the scientific orientations of the current debates: on the epistemological side, the book examines the relationship between Spiethoff’s views and some contemporary thinking on scientific realism, as well as methodological pluralism in social sciences. And, more broadly, it emphasises the analytical relevance of the historical approach in explaining the economic imbalances of contemporary capitalism, questioning the idea, widespread in the neoclassical approach, that taking historical specificities into account makes it hard to achieve a theoretically effective attitude. This book is a significant addition to the literature on the German Historical School of Economics and the history of economic thought, business cycle theory and macroeconomics more broadly.

    Introduction to the volume   1. Schmoller and the historical approach: research programme and unsolved problems of a “classic” of economics.   2. Schmoller: from naturalism to historical specificity in the analysis of socio-economic systems   3. A Century of German Debates on Crises: 1821 – 1925   4. Epistemological vision and analysis of the cycle: pure economics, ideal-typical models and historical-concrete explanations.   5. Explanations and causality in cycle theory.   6. Conclusions: the German Historical School of Economics and the search for a new paradigm.


    Vitantonio Gioia - Professor Emeritus at the University of Salento. Former professor of the History of Economic Thought at the University of Macerata and at the University of Salento (Italy). At the University of Macerata, he was Dean of the Faculty of Political Science, Coordinator of the International PhD “The European Tradition of Political Economy” and President of the “University Scientific Commission”. At the University of Salento, he was Director of the Department of “History, Society and Human Studies”. His research interests include Economic Methodology and History of Economic Thought. The recurrent topics of his contributions are the authors of the German Historical School (Hildebrand, Roscher, Schmoller, Spiethoff, Sombart, Max Weber), European Utopian Thought (Saint-Simon, Proudhon, Owen), Marx and Marxist thought, evolution of Italian Economics. He has published numerous articles in refereed journals, many books and chapters in books. He has been involved in several European projects, and presented papers to many European Universities or international conferences.