pdf: Carl Menger’s Classic on How Social Science Is Done

The most important book ever written on the explanatory strategy of  the social sciences — and the book which most influenced Hayek’s own explanatory strategy in economics — is now available free on the internet in pdf format:  Carl Menger, Investigations into the Method of the Social Sciences with Special Reference to Economics.  To call this book a landmark in the philosophy and  “method” of social science doesn’t well capture the significance of the Menger’s text.  In it Menger lays out the essential blue print for “bottom up” spontaneous order or unintended consequences type explanations, he provides the foundations for the case against positivism and inductivism, he undermines the case for historicism — and sets the agenda for much of the history of the philosophy of economics and social science over the last 120 years setting the problem situation grappled with by — among others — the German Historicists, Hayek, Schumpeter, Mises, the Vienna Circle, Weber, the Verstehen philosophers, and various interminglings of these perspectives.  A massively significant fact is that much of the British and American literature in the philosophy of social science has been a hollow and confused echo of the German language literature in the philosophy and method of economics and social science, in large measure because the English speakers weren’t in on what the core problems were and what the terms of debate were all about — terms of debate laid down by Carl Menger in his classic Investigations and brought to a head with his pamphlet The Errors of Historicism in German Economic, published the next year.

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