Tributes Paul A. Samuelson Lord Robbins Jeffrey T. Young History of Economics Society, USA    

Tribute: Jeffrey T. Young

No historian of economic thought has raised as much controversy and been the topic of as much debate, even acrimonious debate, as has Samuel Hollander…. With the publication in 1973 of The Economics of Adam Smith (hereinafter EAS), Hollander announced his intention to produce a series of studies of the great classical economists. This work is the shortest and least controversial of the series to date. While it was generally warmly received at the time, it has since been overshadowed by the sometimes bitter controversies which erupted following the subsequent installment. Even Mark Blaug, one of Hollander’s severest future critics, recognized EAS as a ‘major contribution to Smithian scholarship.’ Better than a quarter of a century later, EAS endures as an outstanding, if not the best ever, book on Smith’s pure economics….

Hollander’s most enduring legacy as an historian of economics will undoubtedly be his work on David Ricardo, the centerpiece of which is his Economics of David Ricardo (1979).… Will Hollander’s Ricardo win the day among historians of economic thought? Will the ‘new view’ become the standard textbook fare?.... The controversy has been so intense and even bitter that I would be foolish to make a prediction with any degree of confidence. What I believe I have demonstrated is that Hollander’s interpretation is logically sound, rooted in the original texts, and defensible against the charge of anachronism, reading new ideas into older texts. Indeed, it is worth noting that some chinks in the traditional fa?ade have begun to appear…. What I hope to have shown is that Hollander’s interpretation can stand up to the harsh criticism which has been directed against it….

The conclusion must be that Hollander’s view of Malthus is largely correct. Indeed The Economics of Thomas Robert Malthus is likely to become the benchmark against which all future Malthus scholarship will be measured….

As is true of ETRM, the two volumes on Mill [The Economics of John Stuart Mill] must be seen as companion pieces to EDR. Thus, the Ricardian pedigree of Mill’s thought and Marshall’s continuity thesis become the central themes of the book …. Hollander’s successfully argues that the characteristic feature of Mill’s Principles, namely its institutional eclecticism, far from being a departure from Ricardo and a return to Smithian procedures, is actually an integral part of Mill’s defense of Ricardian political economy…. Some of [his wider] material, such as Hollander’s analysis of the evolution of Mill’s relation to Benthamite utilitarianism, is not only brilliant, but also important in its own right….

In his summary comments on EAS (Review, 1974), R.L.Meek made the following prediction: ‘if the remaining volumes of his planned series turn out to be of the same caliber as this, his total contribution to the history of economic thought will indeed have been a remarkable one.’ Twenty-five years and three major installments later, we can conclude that Meek was indeed correct in his forecast. This, as yet unfinished body of work is indeed a remarkable one. Regardless of one’s position on the controversies which continue to rage, there is no question that Hollander’s is that rare sort of work which requires its audience to rethink long held positions and to look at old texts in new ways. It cannot help but produce a major shift in the way historians teach and write about the classical economists.

General Evaluation by Jeffrey T. Young, “From Adam Smith to John Stuart Mill: Samuel Hollander and the classical economists,” Historians of Economics and Economic Thought: The construction of disciplinary memory, eds. S. G. Medema and W. J. Samuels, Routledge: London & New York, 2001, 129-65