Die komplexen Wurzeln des Wirtschafts-liberalismus

Mittwoch, 14. Oktober 2015 | 14:00 Uhr


Alan Kirman


Universität Aix-Marseille III


Liberalism, when applied to economic activity, has, in its various forms, emphasised the desirability of leaving as much freedom of choice as possible to the individual. Yet, implicit in such arguments is the idea that, by so doing, the economy will self organise into a state which has a number of desirable properties. In particular, economic theory, has, over the past century moved to the position that markets, in which individuals are left to their own devices will self organise into an equilibrium and we have shown that such equilibria have desirable social welfare properties.

However the Achilles heel of modern economic theory is the problem of stability. By insisting on studying the properties of equilibrium states without being able to show that an economy would ever arrive in such a state, we have put to one side what is possibly the most important problem in economics. One escape route, used by macroeconomists, has been to simply assume that the economy is always in equilibrium. But, by avoiding the analysis of its out of equilibrium characteristics, we are doomed to fail to account for endogenous crises, such as that from which we are currently still suffering.

An inspection of historical writings on this subject shows that our predecessors were well aware of this problem. Some wrote it off, Others like Hayek argued that there were mechanisms that would achieve an adjustment to equilibrium but his analysis was far from complete, and Debreu thought that the task was impossible.

Yet, treating the economy as a complex adaptive system, an idea which also has long historical roots, may help to resolve the question. In such systems aggregate behaviour emerges from the interaction between individuals. It cannot be understood by looking at the typical or «representative» agent, any more than the collective development of an ant colony can be deduced from the behaviour of the typical ant. However the sort of evolution of an economic system that would be consistent with such a view, is far from the simple convergence to equilibrium usually assumed. One simply cannot assume as we have done, that economies left to their own devices will settle to a satisfactory state and indeed, all the empirical evidence suggests that they will lurch from one crisis to another. Unfortunately, taking such a view, while it will give us a more reasonable basis for analysing economic phenomena, may finally destroy the hope, made explicit by Walras, that one day economics would be a science in the same category as astrophysics.


(Abstract nur auf Englisch verfügbar)

Alan Kirman

1950‐1957 Dulwich College (G.B.)
1957‐1960 Oxford University (Jesus College) B.A. 1960 M.A.1965
1965 Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Bologna (Italy) diplom
1965‐1966 University of Minnesota (USA) First year of gradauate studies in economics.
1966‐1969 Princeton University (USA)  Ph. D. 1971


1990 Elected Fellow of the Econometric Society
1995 Membre de l’Institut Universitaire de France
1995 Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung prize
2003 Chevalier de l’Ordre des Palmes Academiques
2004 Fellow of the European Economic Association
2010 Fondation Urrutia Prize for Economic Visiting professor, University of Bolzano

Current situation
Professeur émerite de Sciences Economiques à l’Université d’Aix‐Marseille III and Directeur d’Etudes à l’Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales Previous


1987-1995 Professor of Economics at the European University Institute, Florence.
1976-1979 Professeur de Sciences Economiques à l’Université d’Aix‐Marseille II
1973‐1994 Reader in economics Warwick University.
1974-1976 Professor of economics Warwick University.
1972-1973 Professeur Extraordinaire à l’Université Libre de Bruxelles
1970-1972 Professeur Associé au CORE,Louvain‐La-Neuve et Professeur Visiteur à l’Université Libre de Bruxelles
1969-1970 Assistant Professor at the  Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore
1969-1970 Teaching Fellow, Princeton University
1965-1966 Teaching Assistant at the University of Minnesota
1961-1964 Head of the Department of Geography, Ratcliffe College, Leicester
1960-1961 Schoolmaster at Bedford Modern School, Bedford

(CV nur auf Englisch verfügbar)

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