The publisher

McGraw-Hill LogoPaul Samuelson’s Economics sold up to 70,000 copies in its first year, in under two decades a million. If economics is a business, the entrepreneurs are not the economists but the publishers and McGraw-Hil Book Company ranks high on the list.

To follow the internationalization of American economics is to consider the influence of Samuelson, but to what extent is Samuelson’s success a corollary of the influence of McGraw-Hill? The internationalization literature makes passing reference to advances in communication that allowed dissemination of American texts. This frames the problem with publishers being ancillary to economists, but could it not be the other way round? After all, American economists had little to gain from an international economics, but publishers had a market to conquer.

Posed as a research question what is the publication trail of Samuelson’s Economics? Which is also to ask: who published it in each country? When? And for what reasons?

As far as I can tell, the history of McGraw-Hill is under researched. The only book length examination of its past is as old as 1959, The Endless Frontier by Roger Burlingame. A history of McGraw-Hill published by McGraw-Hill reads like an in-house piece to celebrate the company and its genius.

3 thoughts on “The publisher

  1. Watch out for Yann Giraud’s (ENS Cachan and EconomiX) Phd Thesis that will include a section on this very topic!

  2. With time, I believe the mathematical “problem solving” orientation of twentieth-century economics will be viewed as piece-meal and insufficient, especially as we look at the viability of the market-mechanism itself in the wake of the financial crisis. Relatedly, Samuelson’s “mathematization” of economics treats the discipline as though it were a science–ignoring the inherent limits to prediction of a human system, whether social, political or economic. For more, pls see

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