The primary theme concerns the development of economic thought as this emerged in the various continental traditions including the Islamic tradition. These continental traditions differed substantially, both substantively and methodologically, from the Anglo-Saxon orientation that has been dominant in the last century for example in the study of public finance or the very construct of the state itself. This books maps the various channels of continental economics, particularly from the late-18th through the early-20th centuries, explaining and demonstrating the underlying unity amid the surface diversity. In particular, the book emphasizes the writings of John Stuart Mill, his predecessor David Ricardo and his follower Jeremy Bentham; the theory of Marginalism by von Thünen, Cournot, and Gossen; the legacy of Karl Marx; the innovations in developmental economics by Friedrich List; the economic and monetary contributions and “struggle of escape” by John Maynard Keynes; the formidable theory in public finance and economics by Joseph Schumpeter; a reinterpretation of Alfred Marshall; Léon Walras, Heinrich von Stackelberg, Knut Wicksell, Werner Sombart, and Friedrich August von Hayek are each dealt with in their own right.
For the purpose of discussing the development of ‘wealth’—the major concern of economists—Bladen defines four periods within the classical tradition, and demonstrates that in each there appeared a characteristic preoccupation with a particular area of economics. From Adam Smith to John Stuart Mill the principal concern was productivity and growth; the neoclassical economists represented by Jevons and Marshall emphasized the problems of allocation of given productive resources; depressions in the twenties and thirties and the impact of Keynesian theory led to a preoccupation with ‘employment,’ and after World War II attention shifted to ‘growth.’ Bladen is critical of previous histories of economic thought: ‘by isolating the treatment of one element in a complex and integrated system of thought they frequently misrepresent each author’s treatment of the particular element.’ In this work he attempts to show each aspect of the work of the economists he has selected in the context of an integrated whole.