The Review of Austrian Economics, 14:2/3, 193–207, 2001.
2001 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Manufactured in The Netherlands.
Typicality and Novelty: Sch ¨utz and Shackle
on the Paradox of Choice
MIE AUGIER email@example.com
Stanford University, 70 Cubberley, Stanford,California 94305-3096
Abstract. This paper discusses the thoughts of the Austrian/American phenomenologist Alfred Sch¨utz
(1899–1959) and the British economist George Shackle (1903–1992) and their views on choice, which are in
many ways very different, perhaps even inconsistent, but also complementary and may even have some shared
elements. This is in particular so with regard to the problem of the paradox of choice, the overall insight that
for choice to be informative, it must neither be predetermined nor random. Shackle has mainly focused on the
creative aspect—on how choice originates while Sch¨utz has tended to focus more on how people are able to
make non-random choices by referring to the “typical” features of action. The paper argues that there are many
differences Sch¨utz and Shackle. The possibility that they are complementary approaches is indicated.
JEL classiﬁcation: B53; B31; D8.
In this paper I shall discuss the views on choice of George Shackle and Alfred Sch¨utz. At ﬁrst
glance, there seems to be rather little similarity between their respective views on choice.
On the other hand they were both taken up with decision-making (albeit in different ways)
from a subjectivist perspective which should stimulate and make comparisons between their
views on choice easier.
Comparisons between Sch¨utz and Shackle have been made in Koppl (1994, 2001). Koppl
argues that the essential message in Sch¨utz is the concern with “ideal-typical” knowledge
upon which we base our interpretations in order to act. This “typical” knowledge is also
the basis of decisions which in turn must rely on knowledge already present in its rela-
tively familiarity, in its typicality. Shackle, in contrast, has written almost exclusively on
the non-typical aspects of choice and behavior; on the (non-determinable) novelty and
creativity involved in the process of choosing. Choice is by necessity something creative,
involving “essential” novelty, and erects existing structures. It is in the process of choos-
ing itself that the possibilities of actions emerge. As such, this has little to do with the
“typical” knowledge already existing, but stresses the inherent unknowability for choice to
be “originative.” It thus appears that Shackle and Sch¨utz say quite different things about
the action of choice, each putting different emphasis on the role of novelty in the process
of choosing; “Sch¨utz has played down the role of novelty, Shackle has exaggerated it”
In this paper I will propose a slightly different interpretation. While I truly acknowl-
edge Koppl’s analysis of Sch¨utz and Shackle, it also seems that the possible intellectual
collaboration between the ideas from Sch¨utz and Shackle deserves a second chance. I