Skip to main content
main-content

Über dieses Buch

THE FIRST GERMAN edition of this book appeared in 1940. Since then the book has gone through five more editions and has been translated into Spanish and Italian. The present English translation is based on the sixth German edition. The author was Professor of Economics at the University of Freiburg, Germany. Professor Eucken was a student at a time when the Historical School dominated the teaching of econo­ mics at the German universities. Although, at the beginning of his career, he did some work along the lines of the Historical School, neither the ~ims nor the methods of historical research the field of economics as practised by the representatives in of the Historical School satisfied him; and the fact that the members of this school were unable to explain the causes of economic events such as the German inflation after World War I was an added reason for him to turn to economic theory. He became, among German economists, the foremost opponent of the Historical School, which he criticised in several publica­ tions. Through his wrItings and his teaching he contributed his share to the revival of interest in economic theory which was noticeable in the 'twenties. And he was one of the few economists left in Germany who helped to keep this interest alive during the 'thirties and during World War II. During this time he published Kapitaltheoretische Untersuchungen (1936), and the present volume, which immediately gave rise to an extensive discussion in German economic journals.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Introduction

Introduction

Abstract
the first german edition of this book appeared in 1940. Since then the book has gone through five more editions and has been translated into Spanish and Italian. The present English translation is based on the sixth German edition.
F. A. Lutz

Preface

Preface

Abstract
over the last hundred years numerous different efforts have been made by economists to achieve a better understanding of the economic world. The classical economists built up a system of remarkable logical consistency, and developed the methods indispensable in economic analysis. But they were unable to attain to a complete understanding of the modern economic world, this world of industrialism, new kinds of social problem, cyclical fluctuations, and of the modern struggles for economic power. The more pressing the contemporary problems became, the more intolerable became the gulf between economic science and the real world.
Walter Eucken

Translator’s Note

Translator’s Note

Abstract
i should like to offer a short explanation about my translation of two of the most important terms used by Professor Eucken in this book: Wirtschaftsordnung and Wirtschaftssystem. It seemed safe to start by translating these as “economic order” and “economic system” respectively, and there would be obvious advantages in choosing such near equivalents. It soon becomes clear, however, that “economic system” by itself is not adequate as a translation of Wirtschaftssystem. In Professor Eucken’s terminology this word is applied to a strictly limited range of limiting cases, abstract models, or types of economic system (or “order”), which the common English term “economic system” would quite fail to indicate.
T. W. Hutchison

The First Main Problem of Economics

Frontmatter

Chapter I. The Main Problem of Economics and Its Origin in Everyday Life

Abstract
“For three hundred years”, Hippolyte Taine once said, “we have been losing more and more the ability to look at things directly. Weighed down by tedious miscellaneous booklearning we find ourselves studying not the objects themselves, but mere representations of them, maps rather than the actual landscape”. It is certainly true that every science and every culture, as it develops, comes in danger of losing its direct grasp. When this happens, it is time to put verbal arguments on one side, to forget about empty conceptual systems, and really to study the field itself. Economics is now in this position. It can only find a firm foundation by looking squarely at the facts and by putting simple decisive questions about them.
Walter Eucken

Chapter II. The Double Nature of the Problem— The Great Antinomy

Abstract
(1) the first main problem of economics which we pose arises simply from looking directly at the facts now around us, at the stove, for example, as it is to-day, or at the wages of the workers this week, or the buying of food to-day. From this we are led to ask about the interrelationships of everyday economic life. If we think back a few years or decades, everyday economic life looked quite different and proceeded in many respects in quite a different way from that in which it does now and did then elsewhere in other parts of our own country and abroad. Henry Ford in the centre of American motor-car production at Detroit had an American village built in the style of the mid-nineteenth century. From all over the country buildings and workshops belonging to that period were brought together. Churches, schools, a town hall, blacksmiths’ forges, windmills, and bakeries were erected, and there was a coach and horses to provide transport. Everyday economic life went on there in quite a different social, political, intellectual, and technical environment from that of contemporary Detroit; the difference being as great as that between the customs and ideas of Tibet and those of Poland, or those of Brazil and those of the eastern parts of the United States.
Walter Eucken

A Critique of Economics: A Second Main Problem

Frontmatter

Chapter I. Introduction

Abstract
have economists succeded, by a combination of history and theory, in understanding the economic process and its relationships in their entirety, thus overcoming what we are calling the Great Antinomy? To give a complete answer to this question we should have to undertake a comprehensive critical review of the history of economics, which is not possible here. We are concerned only with some salient points.
Walter Eucken

Chapter II. “Stages” and “Styles” of Economic Development

Abstract
the basic idea is quite simple: one looks for phases, steps, or stages in the course of history, with the object of constructing a theory which will explain everyday economic life at each phase or stage, and which is only to be valid for this phase or stage. Karl Biicher, for example, asks for a separate theory for each of his three “stages” of development (household economy, city economy, and national economy*) through which he considers the peoples of central and western Europe to have passed. He maintains that “the working out of such stages of economic development is an indispensable aid, or even the only way in which the results of economic history can be made of service to economic theory”.
Walter Eucken

Scientific Understanding of Economic Reality

Frontmatter

Introduction

Abstract
The constructors of cross-sections of economic development have avoided concrete detail in order to arrive at what is “essential” or “normal” in economic reality, yet that has not enabled them to attain their objective. We shall try to reach a solution of our two main problems from the opposite direction, by going straight to the heart of the detailed facts. This may seem paradoxical at first, to try to formulate generalised problems for theoretical analysis by studying detailed facts. But we shall see where this leads us.
Walter Eucken

Chapter I. Economic Facts

Abstract
let us begin with what is nearest to us in our everyday life and consider what there is to be seen. Here is a greengrocer and other shops, a shoemaker and some other small workshops, some factories, farms, the railway, the household in which I live, a number of other households, and many similar establishments. I shall go into some of these and investigate.27
Walter Eucken

Chapter II. The Different Types of Economic System

Abstract
the basic constituent forms cannot be precisely and systematically worked out by relying on speculative generalisations or by laying down axioms. This would only widen the gap between the historical facts and our theoretical investigation. Arbitrary model-building is a serious, though a common error. We can only make this new step in the analysis if we keep in close touch with the real economic world. We must continue to stick to the path we have been following. For the task that now faces us we must start from our previous results in the historical field and penetrate further into the structure of particular individual economic units.
Walter Eucken

Chapter III. Analysis of the Different Types of Economic System: The Data

Abstract
it is now clear what the main framework of economic theory looks like. It is a very comprehensive framework and very extensive structures have to be built up around it. if there is to be an answer to the problem of the interrelations in the economic process in its five different aspects under each of the two types of economic system in all their various forms. The argument of this book is simply concerned with the fundamentals and not with building up the whole structure, so it should suffice if we consider a single type of economic system in one of its special forms, in order to show how theoretical study can proceed, and add a few points concerning the analysis of the other types of economic system.
Walter Eucken

Chapter IV. The Economic System and the Course of Economic Events: The Theory Applied

Abstract
the first objective of the economist, let us repeat, is a scientific understanding of real economic life. He has reached this when he has answered two questions for every country and every period: that of the structure of the economic system, and that of the relationships in the course of economic events under that system. Both questions have proved difficult to answer. It is clear that the usual path of taking cross-sections of economic history and constructing theories for each, does not lead us to our objective. We therefore started on another path.
Walter Eucken

Chapter V. Man in his Economic Life

Abstract
we have demonstrated that the apparently unlimited range of economic forms which history has to show can be reduced to a limited number of typical economic systems, each with its particular variants, and that this provides a basis for understanding economic reality.
Walter Eucken

Chapter VI. Conclusion

Abstract
many authors conclude their books with a summary. I am not going to do that, as I cannot set out the main ideas of this book more briefly than in book form. Schopenhauer said of his main work that he only wanted to express in it a single idea, “but in spite of all my efforts I could find no shorter way of communicating it than this whole book”. I should like to repeat that with all respect. I am afraid I must disappoint anyone who hopes to find a summary or recapitulation which will give him the main content in a quarter of an hour, without his having to read the whole book.
Walter Eucken

Notes

Abstract
Note 1. Failure to start from the facts and from factual problems is the original sin of all empirical sciences. Words and concepts usurp the place of the analysis of facts and conditions. Many are those who blind themselves to the facts by words, definitions, false abstractions, slogans, and prejudices. There were, for example, the notorious opponents of Galileo, who refused to make use of a telescope to look at the moon of Jupiter, because according to their theory and definitions Jupiter could have no moon, and therefore any further study of the heavens was superfluous. “This kind of person”, Galileo said, “believes that truth is not to be found in the world or in nature, but in the comparison of texts”. To-day such blindness to, or fear of, the real world can be laughed at. But such laughter is hardly justified. Economists are especially apt to suffer from a failure to see the true point of departure of their subject in everyday experience and its problems.
Walter Eucken

Backmatter

Weitere Informationen