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  How Economics Forgot History:

    The Problem of Historical Specificity in Social Science

     Still available. Routledge, London, 2001.

     Also available as an ebook.

       ISBN 0-415-25716-6 (hbk) ISBN 0-415-25717-4 (pbk)

      Nominated in 2016 by the World Economics Association as one of the top 50 economics books of the last 100 years.



Professor Richard G. Lipsey (Emeritus Professor, Simon Fraser University, Canada), personal letter of 13 December 2005.

“How Economists Forgot History is a great book. It takes things that I dimly knew and exposes them excellently. The issue of ‘historical specificity’ is vastly important and one that is totally forgotten by most economists who implicitly, and all-too-often explicitly, argue that ‘the more general the better’.”


Professor James K. Galbraith (University of Texas at Austin, USA), personal letter of 25 November 2001.

“Please accept my enthusiastic congratulations on your new book, How Economics Forgot History, a truly extraordinary survey and exercise in intellectual history.”

Dr Julian Reiss (London School of Economics, UK), Economic History Services, Dec 24, 2002; :

“I tremendously enjoyed reading this book. Geoffrey Hodgson … tells a fascinating tale of how economics and social science more generally became abstract and formalistic sciences with little interest in historical and institutional particularities and he develops the beginnings of an account of how the perceived shortcomings may be ameliorated. … Hodgson has done a great job in drawing attention to the fact that economic laws are true only on account of particular arrangements of institutional and cultural facts. He has written an exciting history of how this matter has been treated in the economic literature from Marx to the present day. Furthermore, he has presented us with elements of an analytical framework that helps us to determine which kinds of institutions and cultural facts may matter for which kinds of inquiry. … this book is greatly stimulating and I can highly recommend it to anyone interested in economic history and methodology.”

Professor Doug Brown (Northern Arizona University, USA), Journal of Economic Issues, 37(1), March 2003, pp. 211-14:

“Hodgson has written an outstanding book. … The book has both depth and breadth. … The book is fun to read, in part because Hodgson is an excellent writer and scholar. … This is a five star text – clearly an excellent choice for individual reading and use in graduate courses in both history of thought and institutional economics.”

Professor Roger Backhouse (University of Birmingham, UK), Journal of the History of Economic, 25(1), 2003, pp. 110-12:

“There is much history in the book, but it is what John Passmore has called ‘polemical history’ – it uses history to make a philosophical point about the way social science is and should be undertaken. This is a legitimate exercise but it should be appraised as methodology rather than purely as history. … Hodgson shows that taking this line is extremely fruitful – his account is an important contribution towards understanding the apparent confusion of economic thinking before World War II. .. economists can ill-afford to rule out any lines of enquiry, let alone historical ones.”

Dr Cristel De Rouvray (London School of Economics, UK), Business History, 45(2), April 2003:

the book provides a concise introduction to the Methodenstreit and more generally to the prevalence of questions about the existence of ‘universal’ laws of society. In particular I recommend Hodgson’s treatment of Menger (chapter 7), Veblen (chapter 10) and Knight (chapter 11) … Hodgson provides us with specific discussions on topics that can otherwise seem discouragingly abstract, and sometimes obscure! … his book raises several provocative and important questions which should be recommendation enough to read How Economics Forgot History.”

Professor Michael Bernstein (University of California, San Diego, USA), Business History Review, 2003:

a wonderful work of intellectual retrieval and redemption that brings back to life a now altogether obscure and increasingly forgotten trend in the evolution of the social sciences. Through great erudition, stylistic care and virtuosity, and splendid documentation and notation, Hodgson re-animates the historically grounded argumentation of earlier generations of economists who sought to frame their work less in terms of a general theory of human behavior and more with reference to the significance of historical change and detail. … Striving to find a balance between extreme forms of empiricism and rationalism, Hodgson makes a powerful case for the importance of distinguishing between concepts that are trans-historical in their purchase and those that are closely linked to the workings of particular socio-economic formations.”

Professor George C. Lodge (Harvard Business School, USA), Challenge, March-April 2004:

All those who have felt uneasy about the economic-development doctrine that has been laid down over the past fifty years by the high priests of professional economics … will find solace and vindication in Geoffrey Hodgson’s brilliant book.”