Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

John Neville Keynes's Solution to the English Methodenstreit

  • Gregory Moore (a1)

John Neville Keynes is best known for being the father of John Maynard Keynes and for writing The Scope and Method of Political Economy (1891). The lesser of these achievements was widely accepted as the definitive methodological tract in the field of political economy in the late-Victorian period. In this publication Keynes shed new light on many of the pressing methodological and epistemological problems of the day; he supplied the methodological underpinnings to Alfred Marshall's majestic synthesis of late-Victorian theoretical opinion, as articulated in his Principles of Economics (1890); and, whatis of paramount concern to me in this paper, he employed some deft rhetoric to hasten the end of the long and acrimonious methodological debate between the orthodox and historical economists that is now generally referred to as the English Methodenstreit or “battle of methods.” Keynes consciously strove to provide a solution to the “battle of methods” that would be acceptable to both the orthodox and historical economists and, for this reason, The Scope and Method is understandably characterized by a conciliatory tone and repeated, almost desperate, attempts to see value in arguments from both sides of the conceptual divide. Keynes nonetheless failed in his quest to be even-handed. He was a logician of the first order who was extremely impressed by the neat logical lines of the orthodox framework, and hence, for all his intellectual honesty and obvious good will, he could not help but interpret the debate through orthodox spectacles. The chief rhetorical ploy he drew upon to achieve this orthodox-leaning settlement between the principal antagonists was the unconscious one of the “passive-aggressive” in which the advocate repeatedly makes the outward motions of conceding ground while, in effect, conceding little. The specific mechanics of this strategy entailed reformulating each precept from the historicist conceptual framework so that it would not be in conflict with its nearest orthodox opposite (itself carefully reinterpreted by Keynes), either by showing that it was identical to this orthodox opposite or by arguing that different precepts were appropriate in different situations, and then dismissing the entire methodological debate—which was then in its third decade—as one long and lamentable misunderstanding. Keynes was ably assisted in executing this strategy by his Cambridge colleagues and, for this reason, the quest to settle the debate by providing orthodox interpretations of the precepts then at stake may be termed the “Cambridge solution.” Marshall and Henry Sidgwick played particularly important roles in carrying this rhetorical assault, as the former's more genuine sympathy for many of the historicist ideas and the latter's celebrated honesty made the Cambridge quest appear sincere.

Hide All

Unpublished Material

The John Neville Keynes Diaries, 18641917 (ADD 7831–38). Cambridge University.
Argyrous G. 1990. “The Growth of Knowledge and Economic Science: Marshall's Interpretation of Classical Economists.” History of Political Economy 22 (3): 528–37.
Ashley W. J. 1907. “The Present Position of Political Economy.” Economic Journal 17 (68): 467–89.
Ashley W. J. 1927. “The Place of Economic History in University Studies.” Economic History Review 1 (1): 111.
Black R. D. C., ed. 19721981. Papers and Correspondence of William Stanley Jevons, 7 vols. London: Macmillan.
Blaug M. 1980. The Methodology of Economics or How Economists Explain. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Böhm-Bawerk E. von. 1890. “The Historical vs the Deductive Method in Political Economy,” translated by H. Leonard. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 1 (10): 244–77.
Broad C. D. and Pigou A. C.. 1950. “Obituary of J. N. Keynes.” Economic Journal 60 (238): 403408.
Cairnes J. E. 1870. “Political Economy and Laissez-Faire.” In Essays in Political Economy. New York: A.M. Kelly, 1965, pp. 232–64.
Carr E. H. 1961. What is History? Middlesex, UK: Penguin, 1964.
Clapham J. H. 1922. “On Empty Economic Boxes.” Economic Journal 32 (127): 305–14.
Coase R. H. 1975. “Marshall on Method.” Journal of Law and Economics 18 (1): 2532.
Coats A. W. 1954. “The Historist Reaction in English Political Economy 1870–1890.” Economica n.s. 21 (82): 143–53.
Coats A. W. 1968. “Political Economy and the Tariff Reform Campaign of 1903.” Journal of Law and Economics. 11 (04): 181229.
Coleman D. C. 1987. History and the Economic Past: An Account of the Rise and Decline of Economic History in Britain. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Cunningham W. 1882. The Growth of English Industry and Commerce. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Deane P. 1987. “Keynes, John Neville.” In Eatwell J., Milgate M., and Newman P., eds., The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics, vol. 3. London: Macmillan, p. 42.
Deane P. 1997. “J. Neville Keynes: A Dedicated Victorian Don.” In Arestis P. et al. , Capital Controversy, Post Keynesian Economics and the History of Economic Thought: Essays in Honour of Geoff Harcourt, Vol. I. London: Routledge.
Deane P. 2001. The Life and Times of J. Neville Keynes: A Beacon in the Tempest. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
Edgeworth F. Y. 1891. Review of The Scope and Method of Political Economy, by J. N. Keynes. In Papers Relating to Political Economy, Vol. III. New York: Burt Franklin, 1925, pp. 37.
Foxwell H. S. 1887. “The Economic Movementin England.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 2 (10): 84103.
Friedman M. 1953. “The Methodology of Positive Economics.” In Essays in Positive Economics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 343.
Gras N. S. B. 1927. “The Rise and Developmentof Economic History.” Economic History Review. 1 (1): 1234.
Groenewegen P. D. 1995. A Soaring Eagle: Alfred Marshall 1842–1924. Aldershot: Edward Elgar.
Harrod R. F. 1951. The Life of John Maynard Keynes. London: Macmillan.
Hollander S. 1985. The Economics ofJohn Stuart Mill, 2 vols. Oxford: Blackwell.
Hutchison T. W. 1953. A Review of Economic Doctrines, 1870–1929. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Hutchison T. W. 1964. “Positive” Economics and Policy Objectives. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Ingram J. K. 1885. “Political Economy.” In Encyclopaedia Britannica, 9th edition. London: Adam & Charles Black.
Ingram J. K. 1888. A History of Political Economy. New York: Augustus M. Kelly, 1967.
Jevons W. S. 1865. The Coal Question: An Inquiry Concerning the Progress of the Nation, and the Probable Exhaustion of Our Coal Mines, 3rd edition, edited by Flux A. W.. New York: Augustus M. Kelley, 1965.
Jevons W. S. 1876. “The Future of Political Economy.” Fortnightly Review n.s. 20 (11): 617–31.
Jevons W. S. 1879. The Theory of Political Economy, With Preface and Notes and An Extension of the Bibliography of Mathematical Economic Writings, 5th edition. New York: Augustus M. Kelley, 1965.
Jevons W. S. 1882b. The State in Relation to Labour. New York: Augustus M. Kelley, 1968.
Jevons W. S. 1883. Methods of Social Reform and Other Papers, edited by Jevons H. A.. New York: Augustus M. Kelley, 1968.
Kadish A. 1982. The Oxford Economists of the Late Nineteenth Century. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Kadish A. 1989. Historians, Economists and Economic History. London: Routledge.
Keynes G. 1975. “The Early Years.” In Keynes M., ed., Essays on John Maynard Keynes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 2635.
Keynes J. N. 1879a. “‘Matter of Fact’ Logic.” Mind 4 (13): 120–22.
Keynes J. N. 1879b. “On the Position of Formal Logic.” Mind 4 (15): 362–75.
Keynes J. N. 1884a. “Review of A Textbook of Deductive Logic for the Use of Students, by P. K. Ray.” Mind 9 (36): 587–90.
Keynes J. N. 1884b. Studies and Exercises in Formal Logic, 3rd enlarged edition. London: Macmillan, 1894.
Keynes J. N. 1891. The Scope and Method of Political Economy, 4th edition. New York: Augustus M. Kelley, 1965.
Keynes J. N. 18941899. “Relativity, Principle of, in Political Economy.” Palgrave's Dictionary of Political Economy, vol. 3., edited by Higgs H.. New York: Augustus M. Kelley, 1963, pp. 276–79.
Keynes J. N. 1900. “Obituary of Henry Sidgwick.” Economic Journal 10 (12): 585–92.
Keynes J. N. 1911. “Jevons, William Stanley.” In Encyclopædia Britannica, vol. 15, 11th edition. New York: The Encyclopædia Britannica Company, pp. 361–62.
Keynes J. N. 1936. “Herbert Somerton Foxwell.” Economic Journal 46 (184): 589614.
Koot G. M. 1987. English Historical Economics, 1870–1926: The Rise of Economic History and Neomercantilism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Koot G. M. 1993. “Historians and Economists: The Study of Economic History in Britain ca. 1920–1950.” History of Political Economy. 25 (4): 641–73.
Leslie T. E. C. 1870. “The Political Economy of Adam Smith.” In Essays in Political Economy. New York: Augustus M. Kelley, 1969, pp. 2140.
Leslie T. E. C. 1876. “On the Philosophical Method of Political Economy.” In Essays in Political Economy. New York: Augustus M. Kelley, 1969, pp. 163–90.
Leslie T. E. C. 1879a. “Political Economy and Sociology.” In Essays in Political Economy. New York: Augustus M. Kelley, 1969, pp. 191220.
Leslie T. E. C. 1879b. “The Known and the Unknown in the Economic World.” In Essays in Political Economy. New York: Augustus M. Kelley, 1969, pp. 221–42.
Lowe R. 1878a. “Recent Attacks on Political Economy.” The Nineteenth Century 4 (21): 858–68.
Maine H. 1861. Ancient Law: Its Connection with the Early History of Society and its Relation to Modern Ideas. London: Oxford University Press, 1959.
Maine H. 1871. Village Communities in the East and West, 4th edition. London: John Murray, 1881.
Maloney J. 1985. Marshall, Orthodoxy and the Professionalisation of Economics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Marshall A. 1872. “Mr. Jevons' Theory of Political Economy.” In Pigou A. C., ed., Memorials of Alfred Marshall. New York: Augustus M. Kelley, 1966, pp. 93100.
Marshall A. 1876. “Mr. Mill's Theory of Value.” In Pigou A. C., ed., Memorials of Alfred Marshall. New York: Augustus M. Kelley, 1966, pp 119–33.
Marshall A. 1885. “The Present Position of Economics.” In Pigou A. C., ed., Memorials of Alfred Marshall. New York: Augustus M. Kelley, 1966, pp. 152–73.
Marshall A. 1890. Principles of Economics. London: Macmillan.
Marshall A. 1892. “A Reply to Dr. Cunningham.” Economic Journal 2 (7): 507–19.
Marshall A. 1897. “The Old Generation of Economists and the New.” In Pigou A. C., ed., Memorials of Alfred Marshall. Augustus M. Kelley. N.Y, 1966, pp. 295311.
Marshall M. P. 1947. What I Remember. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Menger C. 1883. Investigations into the Method ofthe Social Sciences with Special Reference to Economics, edited by Schneider L., translated by F. C. Nock. Formerly published as Problems of Economics and Sociology. New York: New York University Press, 1985.
Mill J. S. 1836. “On the Definition of Political Economy.” In The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, vol. 4, edited by Robson J. M.. Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press, 1967, pp. 309–39.
Mill J. S. 1843. A System of Logic: In The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, vols. 7 and 8, edited by Robson J. M.. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1973–1974.
Moggridge D. E. 1992. Maynard Keynes: An Economist's Biography. London and New York: Routledge.
Moore G. C. G. 1995. 1995. “The Role of Cliffe Leslie in the Early Stages of the English Methodenstreit.” Journal of the History of Economic Thought 17 (Spring): 5777.
Moore G. C. G. 1996a. “The Practical Economics of Walter Bagehot.” Journal of the History of Economic Thought 18 (Fall): 121.
Moore G. C. G. 1996b. “Robert Lowe and the Role of the Vulgar Economist in the English Methodenstreit.” Journal of Economic Methodology 3 (1): 6970.
Moore G. C. G. 1999. “John Kells Ingram, the Comtean Movement, and the English Methodenstreit.” History of Political Economy 31 (1): 5378.
Moore G. C. G. 2000a. “Ruskin on Political Economy, or ‘Being Preached to Death by a Mad Governess’.” History of Economics Review 31 (Winter): 7078.
Moore G. C. G. 2000b. “Ingram Versus Nicholson on the History of Political Economy and a Charge of Plagiarism”. Journal of the History of Economic Thought 22 (12): 433–60.
Nicholson J. S. 1878. The Effects of Machinery on Wages. Cambridge: Deighton, Bell & Co.
Nicholson J. S. 1885. “An Article on Political Economy in the Encyclopaedia Britannica.” The Scotsman Saturday, 06 27.
Nicholson J. S. 1888. “A History of Political Economy, by John Kells Ingram.” The Scotsman Monday, 04 23.
Pigou A. C. 1925a. “In Memoriam: Alfred Marshall.” In Pigou A. C., ed., Memorials of Alfred Marshall. New York: Augustus M. Kelley, 1966, pp. 8190.
Pigou A. C., ed. 1925b. “Marshall's Letters.” In Pigou A. C., ed., Memorials of Alfred Marshall. New York: Augustus M. Kelley, 1966, pp 371496.
Popper K. 1960. Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge, 5th edition. London: Routledge, 1989.
Price L. L. 1887. Industrial Peace: Its Advantages, Methods and Difficulties, A Report of the Inquiry Made for the Toynbee Trust. London: Macmillan.
Price L. L. 1891a. A Short History of Political Economy in England from Adam Smith to Arnold Toynbee, 12th edition. London: Methuen, 1924.
Price L. L. 1891b. “Review of An Introduction to Political Economy, by R. T. Ely, with an introduction by J.K. Ingram.” Economic Journal 1 (3): 609–11.
Robinson E. A. G. 1946. “John Maynard Keynes 1883–1946.” In Lekachman R., ed., Keynes' General Theory: Reports of Three Decades. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1964, pp. 1395.
Schumpeter J. 1954. History of Economic Analysis. London: Allen and Unwin, 1986.
Searle G. R. 1971. The Quest for National Efficiency: A Study in British Politics and Political Thought. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
Semmel B. 1960. Imperialism and Social Reform: English Social Imperial Thought. London: Allen & Unwin.
Sidgwick H. 1879. “Economic Method.” Fortnightly Review n.s. 25 (02): 301–18.
Sidgwick H. 1883. Principles of Political Economy. London: Macmillan, 1901.
Sidgwick H. 1885. 1885 “The Scope and Method of Economic Science.” In Smyth R. L., ed., Essays in Economic Method. London: Duckworth, 1962, pp. 7397.
Skidelsky R. 1983. John Maynard Keynes: Hopes Betrayed 1883–1920. London: Macmillan.
Snow C. P. 1959. “The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution.” In Public Affairs. London: Macmillan, 1971, pp 1346.
Tilman R. and Porter-Tilman R., 1995. “John Neville Keynes: The Social Philosophy of A Late Victorian Economist.” Journal of History of Economic Thought 17 (Fall): 184266.
Toynbee A. 1884. Lectures on the Industrial Revolution of the Eighteenth Century in England: Popular Addresses, Notes and Other Fragments. Devon, UK: David and Charles Reprints, 1969.
Thornton W. T. 1870. On Labour: Its Wrongful Claims and Rightful Dues, Its Actual Present and Possible Future, 2nd edition. Shannon: Irish University Press, 1971.
Whitaker J.K. 1972. “Alfred Marshall: The Years 1877 to 1885.” History of Political Economy 4: 161.
Whitaker J.K., ed. 1996. The Correspondence of Alfred Marshall: Economist, 3 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Yeo R. 1985. “An Idol of the Market-Place: Baconianism in Nineteenth Century Britain.” History of Science 23: 251–98.
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? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 10 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 361 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd October 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.