Carl Menger papers, 1857-1985 10 Linear Feet
The Carl Menger Papers span the years 1857 to 1985. Although the collection includes material from Menger's early professional life as well as some items from his brothers, Anton and Max, and his son, Karl, it is primarily composed of manuscripts and correspondence, 1867-1920, relating to his mature academic career. The contents are extremely dense and complex; they are also essential to an understanding of the mind of Carl Menger. Not only do the papers reflect Menger's mind, but they also document his own methods of work. He was a copious note-taker and read voraciously. He kept bound notebooks with reflections and excerpts from his current reading, especially in the early years when he was constructing the Grundsätze. Later he made notes and revisions on loose sheets, having some of them copied into a clear hand, and on those sheets, too, he made revisions. Menger also wrote directly in the printed text. For example, his papers include two copies of the Grundsätze (a third similar copy is in the Hitotsubashi University Library with the rest of Menger's library) with blank pages interleaved with pages of text. In each of these successively Menger made extensive notes and changes. Although it is frequently impossible to date his manuscripts precisely, one can get a sense of the development of his thought from this sort of progression with the help in some cases of holographic evidence.
The collection has been organized into series which reflect both Menger's style of work and his major areas of research. The series include: research notebooks; manuscripts and notes on economic principles, money, and methodology; teaching materials; correspondence; biographical and personal materials; related family materials; miscellany; and printed matter.
Menger's work on political economy and on the nature of his subject and its appropriate research method typify changes in the intellectual frontier in fin-de-siecle Vienna, and Europe as a whole. Some of Menger's most explicit thoughts on these subjects are evident in his lecture notes. Although he taught for over thirty years, the collection contains only a small amount of material from this aspect of his career. What one discerns from the lecture notes, however, is a personal sense of the teacher, and his high degree of moral commitment to his work. Menger clearly thought it important to articulate his thoughts on the distinction between political economy and jurisprudence--since that was the faculty in which he taught--and the method and aims of the discipline.
The bulk of the collection consists of Menger's notes and revisions on economic and theoretical topics. The series on general economic principles contains material relating to his first major work, the Grundsätze der Volkswirthschaftslehre, which he published in 1871. Despite the lack of a full-length coherent manuscript for this book, his background work can be discerned from a set of extensive notebooks he kept. These contain extracts of works Menger read, as well as his reactions and reflections. The range of works shows familiarity with classical authors, particularly Aristotle and Plato, through to his own contemporaries. He showed special interest in writers on law, political economy, and theories of knowledge, such as Grotius, Malthus, J. S. Mill, Ricardo, J. B. Say, Roscher, Descartes, Francis Bacon, Locke, Kant, Fichte, Hegel, and Savigny. Many of the notebooks date from the late 1860s and thus, in the absence of more explicit information from Menger about his development, serve the function of intellectual diaries. Early versions of the actual manuscript of the Grundsätze exist in fragmentary form, mostly heavily revised. A table of contents, dated 1870, provides a useful comparison for later revisions and schemas.
The collection contains extensive materials on the subjects of money, the gold standard, and capital theory. The work on money, which is some of the best ordered in the collection, Menger produced as an article for the second edition of the Handwrterbuch der Staatswissenschaften in 1990, with substantial revisions for the third edition in 1909. Yet even after the latter edition, Menger continued to make changes and notations. His work on monetary reform grew out of an appointment to an Austrian state commission on currency and the use of a single or double bullion standard. Newsclippings of the reports have been maintained in the printed matter series.
Although not direct concerns in the Grundsätze, capital and interest received much attention from Menger, particularly in his refutation of his colleague Eugen Bohm-Bawerk's work of 1885, Geschichte und Kritik der Kapitalzinstheorien. Holographic evidence suggests that after dealing with this subject extensively in the late 1880s, Menger did not return to it again until the second decade of the twentieth century, when he was no longer teaching. At that point he resumed his considerations of capital and interest but looked additionally at credit and property.
The series in the collection which seems most opaque and less easily classified by subject deals with Menger's speculations and theories about the goals and methods of research, specifically for political economy, and the classification of knowledge. The appearance of the Untersuchungen über die Methode der Socialwissenschaften, und der Politischen Oekonomie insbesondere in 1883 provoked sharp criticism from Gustav Schmoller, representing the younger German Historical School. Their dispute came to be known as the Methodenstreit. In the following year, Menger replied to Schmoller with his Irrtimer des Historismus in der Deutschen Nationalokonomie. After this, Menger published no further major works, although he continued to produce articles and book reviews for many years. His notes and manuscripts indicate that his research came to an end only with his death.
Menger's professional contacts with respected colleagues such as Emil Sax, Eugen Philippovich, and Bohm-Bawerk demonstrate that although he refused to publish further, he did not work in isolation. The incoming correspondence shows a lively exchange of information about university teaching and politics, news of the profession, and current research. Letters also refer frequently to works of others in the profession. Few drafts of Menger's own letters exist in the collection. A large proportion of these seem to be addressed to Bohm-Bawerk.