Skip to main content



To this day, the so-called Arrow–Debreu model represents a trademark of rigorous economic research—be it as a benchmark for extending the model, for weakening its assumptions, for structuring data sets, or for providing alternative models. But who should earn the credit? Arrow or Debreu? This essay presents “the making of” Arrow’s and Debreu’s joint article of 1954 as documented in their extensive letter exchange between their first contact in February 1952 and submission in May 1953. I show, pivotally, that Arrow and Debreu did not share the same interest in their work, that they played different roles, and drew different lessons from it. Moreover, neither Arrow nor Debreu can be identified with the way the profession would later refer to the Arrow–Debreu model. To the contrary, both, in their own ways, sought to counter what others perceived as limitations when placing their hopes in the model.

Hide All
Arrow, Kenneth J. 1951a. “Alternative Proof of the Substitution Theorem of Leontief Models in the General Case.” In Koopmans, T., ed., Activity Analysis of Production and Allocation. New York: John Wiley, pp. 155164.
Arrow, Kenneth J. 1951b. Social Choice and Individual Values. New York: John Wiley.
Arrow, Kenneth J. 1951c. “An Extension of the Basic Theorems of Classical Welfare Economics.” In Neyman, J., ed., Proceedings of the Second Berkeley Symposium on Mathematical Statistics and Probability. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, pp. 507532.
Arrow, Kenneth J. 1952. “Le role des valeurs boursières pour la répartition la meilleure des risques.” International Colloquium on Econometrics. Paris: CNRS, pp. 18.
Arrow, Kenneth, and Debreu, Gerard. 1954. “Existence of an Equilibrium for a Competitive Economy.” Econometrica 22 (3): 265290.
Arrow, Kenneth, and Debreu, Gerard, eds. 2001. Companion to General Equilibrium. Landmark Papers in General Equilibrium Theory, Social Choice and Welfare. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
Arrow, Kenneth, and Enthoven, Alain. 1956. “A Theorem on Expectations and the Stability of Equilibrium.” Econometrica 24 (3): 288293.
Arrow, Kenneth, and Hurwicz, Leonid. 1958. “On the Stability of Competitive Equilibrium I.” Econometrica 26: 522552.
Arrow, Kenneth, Block, H. D., and Hurwicz, Leonid. 1959. “On the Stability of the Competitive Equilibrium, II.” Econometrica 27 (1): 82109.
Arrow, Kenneth, and Hahn, Frank. 1971. General Competitive Analysis. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
Begle, Edward G. 1950. “A Fixed Point Theorem.” The Annals of Mathematics 51 (3): 544550.
Debreu, Gerard. Gerard Debreu Papers [DP], Carton 1–14, additional carton 1–4, BANC MSS 2006/218. The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
Debreu, Gerard. 1951a. “The Coefficient of Resource Utilization.” Econometrica 19 (3): 273292.
Debreu, Gerard. 1951b. “Saddle Point Existence Theorems.” CCDP Mathematics 412.
Debreu, Gerard. 1952a. “An Economic Equilibrium Existence Theorem.” CCDP Economics 2032.
Debreu, Gerard. 1952b. “A Social Equilibrium Existence Theorem.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 38 (8): 886893.
Debreu, Gerard. 1953. “The Continuity of Multivalued Functions.” CCDP Economics 2079.
Debreu, Gerard. 1956. “Market Equilibrium.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 42 (11): 876878.
Debreu, Gerard. 1959. Theory of Value: An Axiomatic Analysis of Economic Equilibrium. New York: Wiley.
Debreu, Gerard. 1983. “Autobiography.” In Odelberg, Wilhelm, ed., Les Prix Nobel: The Nobel Prizes 1983. Nobel Foundation: Stockholm.
Debreu, Gerard. 1984. “Economic Theory in the Mathematical Mode.” The American Economic Review 74 (3): 267278.
Debreu, Gerard. 1998. “Foreword: Economics in a Mathematics Colloquium.” In Dierker, E., Siegmund, K., and Menger, K., eds., Ergebnisse eines Mathematischen Kolloquiums. Wien: Springer, pp. 14.
Debreu, Gerard, and Herstein, Israel N.. 1953. “Nonnegative Square Matrices.” Econometrica 21 (4): 597607.
Düppe, Till. 2012. “Gerard Debreu’s Secrecy: His Life in Order and Silence.” History of Political Economy 44 (3): 413449.
Düppe, Till, and Weintraub, E. Roy. Forthcoming. Finding Equilibrium. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Eilenberg, Samuel, and Montgomery, Deane. 1946. “Fixed Point Theorems for Multi-Valued Transformations.” American Journal of Mathematics 68 (2): 214222.
Feiwel George, R., ed. 1987. Arrow and the Ascent of Modern Economic Theory. New York: New York University Press.
Gale, David. 1955. “The Law of Supply and Demand.” Mathematica Scandinavica 3: 3344.
Gale, David. 1963. “A Note on Global Instability of Competitive Equilibrium.” Naval Research Logistics Quarterly 10: 8187.
Gallagher, Noel. 2005. “Gerard Debreu Dies at 83: First of Four Berkeley Economists to Win Nobel Prize over 18-Year Span.” UC Berkeley Public Affairs.
Herstein, Israel N., and Milnor, John. 1953. “An Axiomatic Approach to Measurable Utility.” Econometrica 21 (2): 291297.
Hotelling, Harold. 1938. “The General Welfare in Relation to Problems of Taxation and of Railway and Utility Rates.” Econometrica 6 (3): 242269.
Hurwicz, Leonid. 1961. “Review of Theory of Value.” American Economic Review 51 (3): 414417.
Jaffe, William. 1967. “Walras Theory of Tâtonnement: Critique of Recent Interpretations.” Journal of Political Economy 75 (1): 119.
Kakutani, Shizuo. 1951. “A Generalization of Brouwer’s Fixed Point Theorem.” Duke Mathematical Journal 8 (3): 457459.
Koopmans, Tjalling, ed. 1951. Activity Analysis of Production and Allocation. Cowles Commission Monograph 13. New York: John Wiley.
Lange, Oscar. 1942. “The Foundations of Welfare Economics.” Econometrica 10 (3/4): 215228.
Leonard, R. 1992. Interview with Gerard Debreu, April 15, Evans Hall, Berkeley. Debreu Papers, Carton 4.
Leonard, Robert. 2010. Von Neumann, Morgenstern, and the Creation of Game Theory: From Chess to Social Science, 1900–1960. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
McKenzie, Lionel. 1954. “On Equilibrium in Graham’s Model of World Trade and Other Competitive Systems.” Econometrica 22: 147161.
McKenzie, Lionel. 1960. “Stability of Equilibrium and the Value of Positive Excess Demand.” Econometrica 28 (3): 606617.
Mirowski, Philip. 2002. Machine Dreams: Economics Becomes a Cyborg Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Nash, John F. 1950. “Equilibrium Points in N-person Games.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 36: 4849.
Neumann, John von. 1928. „Zur Theorie der Gesellschaftspiele.” Mathematische Annalen 100: 295320. Translated 1959, “On the Theory of Games of Strategy.” In Luce and Tucker, eds., Contributions to the Theory of Games, IV. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 13–42.
Neumann, John von. 1936.“Über ein ökonomisches Gleichungssystem und eine Verallgemeinerung des Brouwerschen Fixpunktsatzes.” In Menger, Karl, ed., Ergebnisse eines Mathematischen Kolloquiums 8: 7383. Translated 1945–46, “A Model of General Economic Equilibrium.” Review of Economic Studies 13: 1–9.
Neumann, John von, and Morgenstern, Oskar. [1944] 1953. Theory of Games and Economic Behavior. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Nikaido, Hukukane. 1956. “On the Classical Multilateral Exchange Problem.” Metroeconomica 8: 135145.
Oehler, K. 1990. “Speaking Axiomatically: Citation Patterns to Early Articles in General Equilibrium Theory.” History of Political Economy 22 (1): 101112.
Punzo, Lionello. 1991. “The School of Mathematical Formalism and the Viennese Circle of Mathematical Economics.” Journal of the History of Economic Thought 13: 118.
Scarf, Herbert. 1960. “Some Examples of Global Instability of Competitive Equilibrium.” International Economic Review 1 (3): 157172.
Shubik, Martin. 1961. “Review of Theory of Value.” The Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science 27 (1): 133.
Shubik, Martin. [1972] 1977. “Competitive and Controlled Price Economies: The Arrow–Debreu Model Revisited.” In Schwodiauer, G., ed., Equilibrium and Disequilibrium in Economic Theory. Dordrecht: D. Reidel, pp. 213224.
Slater, Morton L. 1950. “Lagrange Multipliers Revisited.” CCDP Mathematics 403.
Wald, Abraham. [1936] 1951. “On Some Systems of Equations of Mathematical Economics.” Econometrica 19 (4): 368403. Translated from “Über einige Gleichungssysteme der mathematischen Ökonomie.” Zeitschrift für Nationalökonomie 7 (5): 637–670.
Weintraub, E. Roy. 2002. How Economics Became a Mathematical Science. Durham and London: Duke University Press.
Weintraub, E. Roy, and Gayer, Ted. 2001. “Equilibrium Proofmaking.” Journal of the History of Economic Thought 23 (4): 421442.
Goldman, Steve. Monday, September 14, 2009. UC Berkeley.
Hildenbrand, Werner. Tuesday, March 23, 2010. University of Bonn.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of the History of Economic Thought
  • ISSN: 1053-8372
  • EISSN: 1469-9656
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-the-history-of-economic-thought
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 6
Total number of PDF views: 76 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 984 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 20th June 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.