The Laws of Human Relations and the Rules of Human Action Derived Therefrom
This is the first English translation of a book initially published in 1854 that provides historians with the link necessary for accurately describing the development of economics as a mathematical and analytic discipline.
In the history of the exact sciences there have been a number of momentous contributions that were not recognized until years after they were made: Carnot's insights in thermodynamics, Galois's in algebra, Mendel's in genetics and, in the social science of political economy, Hermann Gossen's Laws of Human Relations, which laid the foundation of modern utility theory. This is the first English translation of a book initially published in 1854 that provides historians with the link necessary for accurately describing the development of economics as a mathematical and analytic discipline. Gossen's important and original work was ignored in its own time and, until now, surfaced periodically only in the context of other studies. Hermann Gossen (1810-1859) never held an academic position and resigned from a lackluster career in the Prussian Civil Service in order to complete work on his book. "I believe," he wrote of it, "that my discoveries enable me to point out to man with unfailing certainty the path that he must follow in order to accomplish completely the purpose of his life." The path that he sketched for his readers - which was to be laid down in accordance with the principle of diminishing marginal utility and the corresponding theorem of the maximization of utility - preceded William Stanley Jevon's, Carl Menger's and Leon Walras's versions of what was in the mid- to late 1800s a new theory of value and the basis of modern economics. Why his work remained in obscurity is a puzzle teased out in Georgescu-Roegen's long introductory essay on Gossen's life and the significance of this book. Publication of The Laws of Human Relations is supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities