It is undeniable that there is a crisis in the fields of economics and economic and social history. Part of the problem that affects them is that which has characterised all the so-called sciences, although in these cases there is something else, something more. It is not out of mere vanity or a passing whim that sociology and anthropology are replacing economic theory and history in terms of popularity. It is true that not a single truly original idea has emerged in the field of economics since the time of Lord Keynes. The theory of economic development and econometrics have been the two areas that have monopolised the minds and energies of scholars in this discipline for the past quarter century.
The results obtained in the first of these areas have only led to the conclusion that the phenomenon of economic development is one whose deepest roots, its core, are not economic. Considerable and unquestionable progress in the rigour of analysis was initially accelerated by the formalism of mathematical logic when applied to econometric studies. However, econometric studies, as well as other economic and mathematical studies, soon entered a phase characterised by diminishing marginal returns, making the boom in such studies a thing of the past. This was caused by the need to reduce the number of variables and to assume certain parameters as constants, as well as the inevitable tendency to appreciate only quantifiable factors. Of current interest are economic studies on education, public health, the urban environment and pollution. In addition, the weight of non- quantifiable social and cultural factors (‘intangibles’, according to Anglo-Saxon economists) is increasingly recognised. But beyond popular views, one must recognise an interdisciplinary attitude in this new trend, as well as a need for synthesis and a reaction to any mechanical and narrow interpretation. The subject of economic and social history has similarities and differences. Although the subject is characterised by the adjective ‘economic’, it has traditionally not made adequate use of the powerful analytical tools developed by economic theory. In general, historians have shown unusual shortcomings in economic analysis, despite the excellent accuracy of their investigations and the acumen of their historical interpretation.
In the United States, a new school has developed in reaction to this traditional weakness. It is called ‘New Economic History’ and has made many proselytes among young people. This school had the merit of insisting on the specification of the explanatory models adopted and, consequently, on the internal and logical consistency of these models. However, carried away by their enthusiasm for the logical explanatory tool, the school’s proselytes end up confining economic and social history to that same mechanistic technicality from which theoretical economics is currently trying to extricate itself. With respect to the above, the International School of Comparative and Historical Socioeconomics will emphasise the essentially economic approach, while emphasising that economic phenomena must be studied in all the complexity of the reciprocal relationships exhibited with other aspects of society. Following the belief that the problems of our time must be studied from a historical perspective and that the important historical problems are those that are dictated and suggested by actual experience, the study will be directly concerned with the analysis of actual events.