The general equilibrium theory as economic metatheory

Vol. 35 No. 2 (2015)

Apr-Jun / 2015
Published April 1, 2015

How to Cite

Martinelli Silva Luperi, Mauricio. 2015. “The General Equilibrium Theory As Economic Metatheory”. Brazilian Journal of Political Economy 35 (2):306-24.

The general equilibrium theory as economic metatheory

Mauricio Martinelli Silva Luperi
Pesquisador no grupo de pesquisa Novo Desenvolvimentismo e Democracia Social (NODDES), da Fundação Getulio Vargas.
Brazilian Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 35 No. 2 (2015), Apr-Jun / 2015, Pages 306-324


Many economists show certain nonconformity relative to the excessive mathematical formalization of economics. This stems from dissatisfaction with the old debate about the lack of correspondence between mainstream theoretical models and reality. Although we do not propose to settle this debate here, this article seeks to associate the mismatch of mathematized models with the reality of the adoption of the hypothetical-deductive method as reproduced by general equilibrium. We begin by defining the main benefits of the mathematization of economics. Secondly, we address traditional criticism leveled against it. We then focus on more recent criticism from Gillies (2005) and Bresser-Pereira (2008). Finally, we attempt to associate the reproduction of the hypothetical-deductive method with a metatheoretical process triggered by Debreu’s general equilibrium theory. In this respect, we appropriate the ideas of Weintraub (2002), Punzo (1991), and mainly Woo (1986) to support our hypothesis.

JEL Classification: B40; B41.

Keywords: mathematization hypothetical-deductive metatheory