Working Papers

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M. Cedrini & M. Fontana, "Just Another Niche in the Wall? How Specialization Is Changing the Face of Mainstream Economics"

Abstract: There is considerable discussion on so-called ‘mainstream pluralism’, that is, on the co-presence of a variety of research programmes in today’s mainstream economics that: 1. significantly deviate from the neoclassical core; 2. are pursued by different, often separate communities of researchers; 3. have their origins outside economics. The literature tends to regard mainstream pluralism as a transitory state towards a new, post-neoclassical, mainstream. This paper advances a new interpretation: it suggests that the changing and fragmented state of mainstream economics is likely to persist over time under the impact of specialization (as a self-reinforcing mechanism) and the creation of new specialties and approaches, also through collaboration with researchers from other disciplines..

Keywords: Pluralism; Mainstream economics; Specialization; Burden of knowledge; Economics in relation to other disciplines.

JEL Classification
: B41, A12, B59


P. Silvestri, "Disputed (Disciplinary) Boundaries. Philosophy, Economics and Value Judgments"

Abstract: This paper aims to address the following two questions: a) what is the logic of the kind of discourse that seeks to found, demarcate or defend the autonomy or the boundaries of a discipline; b) why does this discourse, whether methodological, ontological or epistemological, sometimes turn into normative, dogmatic-excommunicating wrangles among disciplines, schools or scholars? I will argue that an adequate answer may be found if we understand: 1) disciplines as institutions and, therefore, as dogmatic systems, where scholars’ discourse often takes the form of a legitimizing discourse regarding the founding Reference of their own discipline; 2) that scholars speak in the name of that very foundation, with which they closely identify; 3) that the issue of the legitimacy of a discipline cannot easily be separated from the issue of identity and, therefore, of a scholar’s legitimacy; 4) that the excommunication may arise not only when the founding Reference is absolutized, but also as a form of self-defense of a scholar’s identity-legitimacy. To understand these claims I will re-examine three paradigmatic positions: the methodological, ontological and epistemological considerations put forward by (and the debates between) Pareto, Croce and Einaudi – with specific reference to the demarcation between philosophy, economics and value-judgments.

Keywords: Philosophy, Economics, Value-judgements, Realism, Nominalism, Economist’s discourse, Dogmatics, Disciplinary boundaries.

JEL Classification
A12, B31, B41, B59



P. Silvestri, "Disputed (Disciplinary) Boundaries. Philosophy, Economics and Value Judgments"

Abstract: The paper aims to address the following two questions: what kind of discourse is that which attempt to found or defend the autonomy or the boundaries of a discipline? Why do such discourses tend to turn into normative, dogmatic-excommunicating discourses between disciplines, schools or scholars? I will argue that an adequate answer may be found if we conceive disciplines as dogmatics, where such discourses often take the form of a discourse on the foundation of a discipline, a foundation in the name of which the scholar speaks and with which he/she entertains an identity relationship. To this purpose I will re-examine the methodological discourses of (and debates between) Pareto, Croce and Einaudi on the demarcation issue between philosophy, economics and value-judgments as highly instructive to understand such issues.

Keywords: Philosophy, Economics, Value-judgements, Realism, Nominalism, Economist’s discourse, Dogmatics, Disciplinary boundaries.

JEL Classification
A12, B31, B41, B59


P. Silvestri, "Anthropology of Freedom and Tax Justice: Between Exchange and Gift. Thoughts for an Interdisciplinary Research Agenda"

Abstract: With this paper I try to sketch a research agenda on the basis of which humanities and social sciences might interact with each other, searching for a human common ground in tax issues. To this purpose I shall proceed as follows: (§2) I will sketch two working hypotheses showing how and why tax system raises anthropological issues at the intersection of Philosophy of law, Politics and Economics; to restrict the field of enquiry, I will then analyse, firstly (§2.1), the most common theories of taxation – benefit-cost principle and ability-to-pay principle – usually meant as attempts to answer the demand for tax justice; and, secondly (§2.2), the issue of freedom in taxation as a problem of legal-political and economic obligation. I will then show how the research might gain some insight from both (§3.1) the literature on homo reciprocans, and (§3.2) the literature on gift-giving, which might allow us to better articulate the demands for justice and freedom, as well as to glimpse the human foundations of a new fiscal democracy.

Keywords: Freedom; Justice; Tax; Ability-to-pay principle; Benefit-received principle; Gift; Exchange; Voluntary exchange; Trust; Reciprocity; Fiscal democracy.

JEL Classification
A12; A13; D63; D64; H20; Z13


R. Marchionatti & L. Sella, "Is Neo-Walrasian Macroeconomics a Dead End?"

Abstract: After the ‘new Great Crisis’ exploded in 2008 it is widely recognized that mainstream macroeconomics - the last result of Lucas’s anti-Keynesian revolution of the 1980s which tried to give macroeconomics sound neo-Walrasian microeconomic bases - has failed to anticipate and then appraise the crisis. Has this crisis revealed a failure of this macroeconomics as a scientific theory? Mainstream macroeconomists defend their models on the basis of their alleged superiority in terms of clarity and coherence. The thesis of this paper is that this claim about superiority is false. The paper argues that the reasons for the failure of mainstream macroeconomics – in particular its poor predictive performance and interpretative weakness - reside in the implications of the neo-Walrasian legacy and the problems connected with the implementation of that programme.

Keywords: Neo-Walrasian Macroeconomics, Lucas, DSGE models, theory-driven econometrics

JEL Classification
: B22, B23, B31, B41, D50, E10


M. Cedrini & M. Fontana, "Mainstreaming. Reflections on the Origins and Fate of Mainstream Pluralism"

Abstract: There is considerable discussion on the so-called “mainstream pluralism”, which stems from the growth and coexistence of new research programs in economics that significantly deviate from the neoclassical core. Other disciplines have actively contributed to the birth of such programs, that are carried on by different, often separated communities of researchers. Although “mainstream pluralism” is not the pluralism heterodox economists and students groups have sought for in the recent decades, its persistence over time might provide a possible precondition for the advent of pluralism in economics. While the literature tends to regard mainstream pluralism as a transitory state towards a new, post-neoclassical, mainstream, this paper contributes to the debate by bringing in a different perspective, focusing on economics’ fragmentation and the necessity of specialization. We adopt a “late Kuhnian” framework (derived from Kuhn’s late works on specialization), considering not scientific revolutions but specialization as key engine of progress in science, and interpret mainstream pluralism as the result of economics’ recent growth in size and diversity. To account for the necessity of specialization in economics, we employ Ronald Heiner’s work on the competence-difficulty gap, as well as the evidence offered in some recent studies about the impact of the “burden” of previously accumulated knowledge on innovative behaviour. After a bird’s eye view on the recent history of economics in relation to other disciplines (and an analysis of Herbert Gintis’s “unity of behavioral sciences” proposal as possible new mainstream), we discuss the possibility that today’s “mainstream pluralism” might persist over time.

Keywords: Pluralism; Mainstream economics; Specialization; Burden of knowledge; Economics in relation to other disciplines.

JEL Classification
: B41, A12, B59



A.M. Carabelli & M. A. Cedrini, "Not Beautiful, not Just, not Virtuous; 'And It Doesn't  Deliver the Goods'. Capitalism and “Fear of Goods”  in Keynes's Thought"

Abstract: Offering a view of the other side of the liquidity-issue, the paper elaborates on the concept of “fear of goods” in Keynes’s thought. It therefore illustrates numerous evidences of “fear of goods” in his economics, and aims to show that the notion might be considered as playing a quite important role as organising concept, helping to establish connections between ideas that are apparently only weakly related. The article fosters an interpretation of the development of Keynes’s theoretical arguments and proposed policy instruments for both domestic and global economy, as reactions to the “fear of goods” of capitalism, which Keynes saw as an inborn propensity of monetary economies of production.

Keywords: John Maynard Keynes; Capitalism; Fear of goods; International economic order; Commodities plans

JEL Classification: B31, F02, P1, Q02

Published in: The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, forthcoming.


R. Marchionatti & F. Mornati, "Economic Theories in Competition. A New Narrative of the Debate on General Economic Equilibrium Theory in the 1930s"

Abstract: The paper deals with the debate on the General Economic Equilibrium in the 1930s in Vienna and at the London School of Economics and offers an interpretation of it different from that of the traditional narratives. It interprets the debate as a renewed confrontation between the two different classical methodological paths of research in GEE, the Paretian and the Walrasian ones. What emerges from this examination is a picture of different approaches and theories in competition, in particular on the issue of the relationship between theory and the real world. This was the fundamental issue at stake. Herein lies also the interest in those distant controversies for the current debate in economics.

Keywords: Hicks, Wald, Von Neumann, General Economic Equilibrium, Mathematical formalism.

JEL Classification
: B23, B41, C02, D50


L. Sau, "Do the International Monetary and Financial Systems Need More than Short-Term Cosmetic Reforms?"

Abstract: The storm that has rocked our world has opened an interesting debate among economists and policy makers concerning with the need of a new international monetary and financial architecture. The monetary and financial regime that has been in force since the collapse of Bretton Woods (B-W), encourages indeed the persistence of unsustainable dynamics which spawn increasingly serious crises and it is unable of imparting an acceptable macro-economic discipline device to the world's economy. It became apparent that the global role of a key currency along with the deregulation of financial markets (neo-liberal paradigm) have acted as underlying conditions for the US financial crisis up to present situation and the following contagion to Europe. In this paper I point out the inadequacy of the institutional arrangements underlying the international monetary and financial regimes and I outline the relevance to the current debate of Keynes original plan, suggested rightly 70 years ago, that never born.

Keywords: International Currency, International Financial Architecture, Global Imbalances, Keynes Plan.

JEL Classification
E12, E42, E58, E02, F02, F33


L. Sau, "Debt Deflation Worries: A Restatement"

Abstract: There here has recently been a marked increase in concern of debt deflation worries particularly in the euro zone. This is the second time in the past recent years that widespread interest about this relevant economic phenomenon has come to the fore, the first being during and in the aftermath of the Asian crisis and Japan great stagnation, and the second being after the current financial turmoil stemmed from the US and propagating later in Europe. After an overview of the relevant insights by the debt-deflation school in this paper I try to update these analysisand findings to understand the causes and consequences of nowadays debt deflation process. 

Keywords: financial fragility, banking crisis, sovereign crisis, debt deflation

JEL Classification: E32, E42, E62

Published in: Review of Keynesian Economics, 3 (3), 2015: 279-294.


A. Ambrosino, "Il coordinamento nella mediazione civile e commerciale: l'emergenza di norme hayekiane e il percorso 'protetto' verso l'ordine sociale"

Abstract: The mediation procedure, as outlined by D.lg 28/2010 and subsequent amendments, introduced in our legal system a new tool for coordinating the decisions of economic agents. The new civil mediation is proposed, therefore, as an instrument characterized by a different procedure and objectives from those of ordinary judgment. The evaluation of its efficiency requires the introduction of new theoretical tools that allow to evaluate the different aspects of social interaction in mediation. The traditional cost-benefit analysis proposed by the economic analysis of law, or simple considerations on Pareto-efficiency proposed by standard economics seem not sufficient analytical tools in this perspective. This article shares Mitchell’s cognitive approach to the theory of law, and it is aimed at analyzing the new model of mediation introduced into Italian legislation through the lens offered by F.A. Hayek’s theory of law (1973, 1976, 1979), with particular reference to the distinction he made ​​between law and legislation and its consequence on the analysis of the role of the judge in common law as the discoverer of law. Moreover, Hayek’s legal theory will be analyzed jointly to his concept of social order. In the light of the contribution of this author, in fact, the choice of our legislator seems to be close to the idea of developing regulatory structures that simply delineate the action of subjects without imposing specific behaviors or ex ante solutions to given situations.

Keywords: F. von Hayek, civil mediation, cognitive economics, law

JEL Classification: B15, B21, B31, B40, D11



I. Moscati, "Austrian Debates on Utility Measurement from Menger to Hayek"

Abstract: This paper examines how some of the main exponents of the Austrian school of economics addressed the issues related to the measurability of utility. The first part is devoted to the period before World War I. During this period, Menger and Wieser treated de facto utilities as if they were measurable and could be expressed as multiples of a utility unit, Böhm-Bawerk and the young Schumpeter defended explicitly the measurability of utility, while, in contrast to these views, Čuhel and Mises argued that utilities cannot be measured but only ranked. After World War I, the ordinal view became the dominant one among Austrian economists but they admitted that individuals are not only able to rank the utility of goods (as in the ordinal approach), but are also capable of ranking differences of utility. The second part of the paper reconstructs the interwar discussions on the ranking of utility differences, focusing on the contributions of Schönfeld, Rosenstein-Rodan, Morgenstern and Alt. The paper concludes by illustrating Hayek’s ordinal view of utility.

Keywords: Austrian school; Utility theory; Measurability of utility; Classically measurable utility; Ordinal utility; Cardinal utility

JEL Classification: B13, B21, B31, B40, D11

Published in: R. Leeson (eds), Hayek: A Collaborative Biography. Part IV, England, the Ordinal Revolution and the Road to Serfdom, 1931-50, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015: 137-178.


A.M. Carabelli & M. A. Cedrini, "Globalization and Keynes's Ideal of a 'Sounder Political Economy between All Nations'"

Abstract: This paper is a contribution to the elaboration of a narrative of the international economic disorder that followed the demise of the Bretton Woods regime. It therefore revisits some key episodes of the recent history of the world economy – the Washington Consensus saga and the widening of global imbalances – and throws light on the attempt made in the Nineties to construct a neoliberal global order entirely and exclusively based upon market discipline, with consequent shrinking in policy space. The article shows that the resulting "hyper" version of globalization is, in its essence, a complete repudiation of Keynes’s international economics, and discusses the enduring relevance of his vision of international economic relations and global reform plans to the current epoch of "gated globalization".

Keywords: Globalization, John Maynard Keynes, Washington Consensus, global imbalances, international economic order, policy space, developing countries

JEL Classification: B31, F02, F3, F6, F63

Published in: T. Hirai (ed.), Capitalism and the World Economy. The Light and Shadows of Globalization. New York: Routledge, 2015: 46-70.


A.M. Carabelli & M. A. Cedrini, "A Methodological Reading of 'The Economic Consequences of the Peace'"

Abstract: The paper provides a methodological reading of Keynes’s "The Economic Consequences of the Peace." Drawing on the close interdependence between theory and method in Keynes's economics, which he considered as a branch of logic, a correct way of reasoning about a complex economic material, we reconstruct the rationale of Keynes's imaginative solutions for the troubles caused by WWI and the Versailles Treaty. We thereby shed light on a method of thinking out the specific problems of international economic relations that Keynes will be consistently using (though adapting it to changing times and circumstances) in his work of international economics and diplomacy. A method which will have a direct influence on the contents of Keynes's Bretton Woods reform plans, and may be of great importance in directing European policy-makers to a structural reform of the continent's economic architecture.

Keywords: Economic Consequences of the Peace, Europe, John Maynard Keynes, interdependence, complexity, uncertainty, ethics, leadership

JEL Classification: B31, B41, F02, N44

Published in: J. Hoelscher and M. Klaes (eds), Keynes's Economic Consequences of the Peace. A Reappraisal, London: Pickering & Chatto, 2014: 97-115.


M. A. Cedrini & R. Marchionatti, "On the Theoretical and Practical Relevance of the Concept of Gift to the Development of a Non-Imperialistic Economics"

Abstract: There is growing awareness of the need for interdisciplinary research on complex issues, but also of the obstacles that historical boundaries between social disciplines pose to such dialogue. It is increasingly recognized that the somewhat constitutive autonomy, the progressive autonomization, and finally the “imperialism” of economics have severely reduced the possibility of interdisciplinary discussion. This paper is to be considered as an introduction to a research programme on the foundations of a non-imperialist economics. It investigates gift exchange as a missed opportunity for economics. It aims at showing that, by refusing to tackle the complexity of the gift, economics has not only lost an opportunity to develop a method suitable for the analysis of complex problems, but has voluntarily chosen not to follow a path which would have prevented it from colonizing other disciplines. Reintroducing the concept of gift into the economic discourse may thus represent a required precondition to produce an innovating discourse on economics.

Keywordseconomics imperialism, interdisciplinarity, gift, economic methodology, economic thought, complexity
JEL Classification: A12, Z13, B1


A.M. Carabelli & M. A. Cedrini, "Keynes's General Theory, Treatise on Money, and Tract on Monetary Reform: Different Theories, Same Methodological Approach?"

Abstract: In trying to assess the content and significance of Keynes's attempted revolution in economic methodology, historians have almost exclusively focused on the General Theory. By highlighting the legacy of the Treatise on Probability for Keynes's economic writings, this paper provides evidence of strong methodological continuity between the Tract on Monetary Reform, the Treatise on Money and the General Theory, despite radical differences in the theories. We argue that the novelty of Keynes's approach lies in offering a method of analysis requiring cooperation on the part of the reader, in the effort to tackle the complexity of the economic material.

Keywords: John Maynard Keynes, economic methodology, economic theory, complexity, interdependence
JEL Classification: B31, B40

Published in: The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, 21 (6), 2014: 1060-1084


I. Moscati, "How Cardinal Utility Entered Economic Analysis during the Ordinal Revolution"

Abstract: The paper shows that cardinal utility entered economic analysis during the Ordinal Revolution initiated by Pareto and not, as many popular histories of utility theory assume, before it. Cardinal utility was the outcome of a discussion begun by Pareto about the capacity of ranking transitions among different combinations of goods. The discussion simmered away during the 1920s and early 1930s, underwent a decisive rise in temperature between 1934 and 1938, and continued with some final sparks until 1944. The paper illustrates the methodological and analytical issues and the measurement-theoretic problems, as well as the personal and institutional aspects that characterized this debate. Many eminent economists of the period contributed to it, with Samuelson in particular playing a pivotal role in defining and popularizing cardinal utility. Based on archival research in Samuelson’s papers at Duke University, the paper also addresses an issue of priority associated with the mathematical characterization of cardinal utility. 

Keywords: Cardinal utility; Ordinal Revolution; Utility analysis; Utility measurement; Samuelson
JEL Classification: B13, B21, B40, D11

Published in: The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, 20 (6), 2013: 906-939



A.M. Carabelli & M. A. Cedrini, "Some Foreseeable Disasters of the Global Economy: The High Cost of Neglecting Keynes’s Approach"

Abstract: The paper revisits some foreseeable disasters of the recent history of the global economy, from the consequences of the failed attempt to construct a disciplinary order based on the Washington Consensus paradigm, to the current global crisis, which dramatically showed the vulnerability of the ʺBretton Woods 2ʺ order and contributed to the widespread adoption in Europe of austerity programs. We argue that the historical evolution of the international non‐system since the collapse of the Bretton Woods regime can be regarded as the complete repudiation of the essence itself, and general philosophy, of Keynes’s international economics. We aim at demonstrating, conversely, that Keynesʹs international macroeconomics is the result of the development of an extremely powerful “complexity approach” to international economic relations, and that it still provides a mostly needed theoretical reference to construct, as Keynes himself would say, a ʺsounder political economy between all nationsʺ.

Keywords: John Maynard Keynes, International Economic Order
JEL Classification: B31, F02

Published in: T. Hirai, M.C. Marcuzzo, P. Mehrling (eds.), Keynesian Reflections: Effective Demand, Money, Finance and Policies in the Crisis, Oxford University Press India, 2013: 286-307


A.M. Carabelli & M. A. Cedrini, "On the New Appeal of Chapter 12 of the General Theory. Complicating Remarks on the Keynes-Hume Connection and the Presumed Novelty of the Analysis of Financial Markets in the General Theory"

Abstract: A basic presupposition of the rediscovery, in the times of the crisis, of chapter 12 of the General Theory is that Keynes’s treatment of financial markets, and particularly the use of the notion of convention, represents a crucial novelty in both his economics and philosophy. The article offers complicating remarks to critically discuss this interpretation. In particular, we analyse the complex Keynes-Hume theoretical connection in the light of the Keynes-Sraffa correspondence on Hume’s Abstract, and emphasize the theoretical legacy of Keynes's 1910 lectures on speculation for the analysis of financial markets in the General Theory.

Keywords: John Maynard Keynes, David Hume, conventions, financial markets, speculation
JEL Classification: B31, B40, D84, A12

Published in: The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, 20 (6), 2013: 1071-1100



F. Mornati, "Pareto quale possibile precursore degli studi sulla complessità sociale: un'introduzione"

Abstract: Nel pensiero di Pareto l’idea di complessità, da lui concepita come la necessità di uno studio interdisciplinare dei fenomeni sociali (a partire da quello economico) con connesso ricorso a tutte le scienze (ed i relativi metodi) disponibili, è presente fin dall’inizio della sua produzione accademica, a diretto seguito delle sue scelte metodologiche. Ricordato che l’interesse di Pareto per la sociologia è ben antecedente il Trattato, presentiamo, in una chiave solo intuitivamente di complessità, una rilettura del tema dell’interdipendenza fenomenica nel Trattato che ci pare rappresenti la ragione per cui si possa almeno ipotizzare che Pareto sia un precursore degli studi sulla complessità sociale. Ricordata la difesa che Pareto ha fatto del suo approccio interdisciplinare, terminiamo esponendo un’interessante rilettura dell’interdipendenza fenomenica in Pareto fatta secondo metodi forse ascrivibili alla corrente scuola della complessità.

Keywords: Vilfredo Pareto, complessità, interdisciplinarietà, metodologia
JEL Classification: B31, B41, A12

Published in: F. Allisson and R. Baranzini (eds), Economics and Other Branches. In the Shade of the Oak Tree. Essays in Honour of PAscal Bridel, London: Pickering & Chatto, 2014 (forthcoming).

Working papers 2002-2010