G. L. S. Shackle

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George Lennox Sharman Shackle (14 July 1903 – 3 March 1992) was an English economist. He made a practical attempt to challenge classical rational choice theory and has been characterised as a "post-Keynesian," though he is influenced as well by Austrian economics. Much of his work is associated with the Dempster–Shafer theory of evidence.


  • Myrdalian ex ante language would have saved the General Theory from describing the flow of investment and the flow of saving as identically, tautologically equal, and within the same discourse, treating their equality as a condition which may, or not, be fulfilled
    • G. L. S. Shackle (1989) "What did the General Theory do?", in J. Pheby (ed), New Directions in Post-keynesian Economics, Aldershot: Edward Elgar.

Epistemics and Economics. (1972)[edit]

G. L. S. Shackle (1972), Epistemics & Economics: A Critique of Economic Doctrines" Cambridge University Press; Reprint 1992

  • A discipline, a region of the world of thought, should seek to know itself. Like an individual human being, it has received from its origins a stamp of character, a native mode of response to the situations confronting it. Right responses, 'responsibility', will require of the profession as of the individual an insight into the powers and defects of the tool which history has bequeathed to it.
    • p. 24
  • Whatever form it takes, the possession of the imaginative gift transforms the problem of accounting for human conduct. For now it is not a question of how given needs are satisfied. Deliberative conduct, choice, the prime economic act, depend for their possibility, when they go beyond pure instinctive animal response to stimulus, upon the conceptual power of the human mind. Choice is necessarily amongst thoughts, amongst things imagined.
    • p. 130
  • When we examine this suggestion, we see that it is no more than a formal acknowledgement of a problem, the problem of how (by what institutional arrangement, by what organization of affairs) the equilibrium prices are to be discovered. Repeated trial and error, while the market stands in suspense awaiting the outcome, is not a practical resort. The number of distinct trials, even if confined to discrete steps of price and quantity, would be so immense that the necessary 'market day' would extend beyond human life-times... [The] theoretical ideal applies to mutually isolated days or moments, each to be treated as perfectly self-contained and looking to no yesterday and no tomorrow. But the real market is dealing with goods inherited from yesterday, and in means of production whose products will not be ready till tomorrow. Meanwhile the non-economic circumstances are changing and rendering each successive equilibrium obsolete.
    • p. 150
  • There is little point in demanding minor concessions and relaxations of the abstract, timeless general equilibrium. The light it can throw on human affairs is throw by its most austere and formal version. We are not concerned to ask: How could it possibly work? The useful question is: What does its logical structure imply?
    • p. 150-1
  • Before the Treatise, the interest- rate was determined by tastes and objective circumstances, by the persuasibility of income-earners to transfer consumption from the present to the future, and the desire of business men to transfer the means of free enterprise from the future to the present, thus altering the productive possibilities and enlarging the prospective income of the society including themselves.
    • p. 162
  • In the Treatise we are shown the bond-market as it exists in real life: a speculative market where a price, with an identity and a momentary stability, can only exist if there are two camps of dealers holding opposite views of the impending movement of bond prices.
    • p. 162
  • The bond price, and, as an arithmetical and rigid consequence, the interest rate is an inherently restless variable.
    • p. 201

Quotes about G. L. S. Shackle[edit]

  • Tragically, before the proliferation of empirically blind idiot savants, interesting work had been begun by true thinkers, the likes of J. M. Keynes, Friedrich Hayek, and the great Benoit Mandelbrot, all of whom were displaced because they moved economics away from the precision of second-rate physics. Very sad. 'One great underestimated thinker is G.L.S. Shackle, now almost completely obscure, who introduced the notion of "unknowledge"', that is, the unread books in Umberto Eco's library. It is unusual to see Shackle's work mentioned at all, and I had to buy his books from secondhand dealers in London.

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