E conomic theory has suffered in the past from a failure to state clearly its assumptions. Economists in building up a theory have often omitted to examine the foundations on which it was erected. This examination is, however, essential not only to prevent the misunderstanding and needless controversy which arise from a lack of knowledge of the assumptions on which a theory is based, but also because of the extreme importance for economics of good judgment in choosing between rival sets of assumptions. For instance, it is suggested that the use of the word “firm” in economics may be different from the use of the term by the “plain man.” Since there is apparently a trend in economic theory towards starting analysis with the individual firm and not with the industry, it is all the more necessary not only that a clear definition of the word “firm” should be given but that its difference from a firm in the “real world,” if it exists, should be made clear. Mrs. Robinson has said that “the two questions to be asked of a set of assumptions in economics are : Are they tractable? and : Do they correspond with the
Economica – Wiley
Published: Nov 1, 1937
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