Eli Hecksher as a Portrait Maker

Benny Carlson

Abstract


Eli Heckscher was not only author of extensive investigations into economic history. He was also skillful in depicting phenomena in small format in encyclopædias, journals and newspapers. This article presents Heckscher as portrait maker of economic scholars. In these portraits—what he emphasized, what he praised, what he criticized—one can discern the stance of the portrait maker himself. Overall, his portraits are permeated by admiration of sharp theoretical analyses and massive economic historical investigations. He admires the founding fathers of political economy, Adam Smith and David Ricardo, stresses continuity in the development of economic thought, praises humble innovators like David Davidson, Knut Wicksell and Alfred Marshall and denounces (what he perceives as) pretentious innovators like Gustav Cassel and John Maynard Keynes. He is critical towards economists who attempt to break out of the classical and neoclassical tradition, especially representatives of the German historical school, and what he judges to be a new type of mercantilism, represented by Bertil Ohlin and Keynes. At the same time he appreciates voluminous and solid investigations into economic history, even if performed without theoretical beacons, by scholars like William Cunningham, William Ashley, John Clapham, Marc Bloch, Richard Ehrenberg and Werner Sombart.


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