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Title: W. E. Johnson and Some Historical Notes on the Early Contributions to The Study of Consumer Behaviour
Authors: Ghosh, Santanu
Keywords: History of Economic Thought – Individuals
Consumer Economics – Theory
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Vidyasagar University , Midnapore , West Bengal , India
Series/Report no.: Vidyasagar University Journal of Economics;Vol 19 [2014-15]
Abstract: The theory of value and choice occupies a prime position in economic theory. Its modern beginning is traced to the works of Slutsky, Hicks and Allen and these authors have, accordingly, have been hailed as the pioneers of the ordinal utility based indifference curve approach. While Slutsky’s paper was published in 1915, it, however, remained unnoticed or unattended till the appearance of the collaborative work of Hicks and Allen in 1934. The present paper argues that the beginning of the indifference curve analysis actually goes back to an article published by William Ernest Johnson, a Cambridge logician and philosopher, in the year 1913 (in the December issues of the Economic Journal). A close look at his work reveals that Johnson envisaged the relevant concepts and ideas earlier than Slutsky and, hence, was much ahead of Hicks and Allen in formalizing the modern consumer behaviour theory. While some authors have cast doubt over Johnson’s originality and have accused him of borrwoing ideas from Pareto without any mention of or acknowledgment to the Italian economist, the present paper, however, contends that the calendar year 2013 marked the centenary of the indifference curve analysis and strongly advocates for rehabilitation and recognition of Johnson, an unsung hero, in the pages of the history of economic thought. The paper also highlights some early and fundamental contributions of a set of individuals in the area of consumer behaviour during the mid-1930s – when the field was in its nascent stage of research and development – and laments that their works have also virtually been forgotten by the academic community amidst the euphoria of applauding Slutsky, Hicks and Allen.
ISSN: 09758003
Appears in Collections:Vidyasagar University Journal of Economics Vol. XIX [2014-15]

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