The surprising Weberian roots to Milton Friedman's methodology

The main point of this paper is to contribute to understanding Milton Friedman’s (1953) “The Methodology of Positive Economics” (hereafter F1953), one of the most influential statements of economic methodology of the twentieth century, and, in doing so, help discern the non trivial but complex role of philosophic ideas in the shaping of economic theorizing and economists’ self-conception. It also aims to contribute to a better understanding of the theoretical origins of the so-called ‘Chicago’ school of economics. In this paper, I first present detailed textual evidence of the familiarity of George Stigler with the early work of Talcott Parsons, the most important American translator and disseminator of Max Weber’s ideas, who also helped create sociology as a distinct discipline in the United States. The Chicago-Parsons link is no surprise because historians have known that Frank Knight and Parsons corresponded, first about translating Weber and then about matters of mutual interest. Knight, who was a doctoral advisor to Stigler and teacher of Milton Friedman, was not merely the first American translator of Weber, but remained keenly and, perhaps, increasingly interested in Weber throughout his life. I am unfamiliar with any investigation of the Weberian influence on Knight’s students. I show that Stigler praises Parsons’ treatment of Alfred Marshall, who plays an outsized role in Friedman’s self-conception of economics and economic theory. I also show that Stigler calls attention to the methodological similarity between Friedman and Parsons. Finally, I turn to F1953, and I show, first, that some of its most distinctive and philosophically interesting claims echo Parsons’ treatment of methodological matters; second that once alerted one can note Weberian terminology in F1953.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 16,667
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

58 ( #58,900 of 1,726,249 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

6 ( #118,705 of 1,726,249 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.