Protoeconomics: Institutions in Economic Theory

Master seminar (block event)

An organisational meeting and introduction to the topic takes place on 20 April 2021, 6 p.m. - as a video conference.

The seminar will take place from 12-18.06.2021 in Hirschegg (Kleinwalsertal, Austria) - assuming it wil be possible to meet in person and to travel - Further information and access to the organisational meeting in our OLAT course.

Deadline for Exam Registration and Withdrawal: 8 April 2021 - 21 April 2021
Exam registration and withdrawal takes place via QIS: My Functions > Administrations of Exams

Grading will be based on homework (60%) and presentation (40%). Each partial requirement needs to be passed with a grade of 4.0 or better.


The unity of economics as a discipline seems to dissolve, as more and more subdisciplines are being created; one speaks in a critical vein of fragmentation, but there is also a growing body of literature on economic pluralism, interpreted as a welcome trend to overcome the so-called mainstream. The history of economic thought has discussed different economic schools for a long time. Each has its own way to found economic science and uses different basic concepts to construct the space of the economic. Scarcity prices in neoclassical and prices of production in classical theory reflect such different starting points. We call these foundations the protoecnomic theory of each school. It is the aim of this seminar to discuss the diverse conceptual origins of economic thought from an advanced point of view in order to investigate to what extent modern fragmentation or pluralism can be explained in terms of this history. The seminar papers shall reconstruct these protoeconomic foundations and the discussions shall confront them with the modern practices of the discipline, as experienced by the students.
We shall compare in this seminar how different economic theories formulate their basic assumptions. We shall start with philosophical and methodological considerations and discuss Kantian and Popperian approaches, the evolution of paradigms and ontological realism. Then we shall turn to modern reformulations of the basic propositions of classical, neoclassical and evolutionary economic theories. 



  • Immanuel Kant: Metaphysische Anfangsgründe der Naturwissenschaft
  • Hans Poser: Wissenschaftstheorie. Eine philosophische Einführung
  • Tony Lawson: Economics and Reality
  • Piero Sraffa: Production of Commodities
  • Gerard Debreu: Theory of Value
  • Douglass North: Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance