Profile Major Works Resources

Hans Mayer, 1879-1955.

Austrian economist, student of Friedrich von Wieser and professor at the University of Vienna. 

Hans Mayer studied law at the University of Vienna, receiving doctorate in 1907.  After a period of interlude in the private sector and as a lecturer at Friburg (Switzerland), he obtained his habilitation at Vienna in 1914.  He was set to teach in Prague, but WWI broke out, and Mayer served on the front and eventually in the War Ministry.  Mayer returned to Prague in 1919, and in 1921 moved on Graz, succeeding Joseph Schumpeter.

Friedrich von Wieser handpicked Hans Mayer to succeed to his chair at the University of Vienna in 1923.  Hans Mayer helped educate and mentor much of the Third Generation of Austrian School - which included Hayek, Haberler, Rosenstein-Rodan and Morgenstern.

Mayer's tenure at Vienna has been regarded as controversial. For starters, Mayer reportedly spent much of his time sparring with his colleagues at Vienna.  These included junior colleague Ludwig von Mises (representing the Böhm-Bawerk's branch of the Austrian School, in contrast to Mayer's Wieserian tradition), the Austro-Marxist Carl Grünberg (who taught economic history) and above everything, the Historicist-trained economic "universalist" Othmar Spann (who taught economics and sociology).  The titanic battle between Mayer and Spann for the "soul" of economics at Vienna divided the university in the 1920s and veered into personal acrimony.

In the streit between Mayer and Spann in the 1920s, Mayer deployed institutional resources in the service of the Austrian School.  The venerable old Austrian journal, Zeitschrift für Volkswirtschaft, Sozialpolitik und Verwaltung, founded back in 1892, had been only sporadically published since the end of the war, and attempts to re-launch it were marred by Spann's control.  Mayer effectively side-stepped it and launched the new Austrian journal, the Zeitschrift für Nationalökonomie in 1929, placing it in the hands of Rosenstein-Rodan  and Morgenstern.  Mayer also founded the Austrian economics society (Nationalökonomische Gesellschaft, NÖG) in 1927. 

Despite his early promise, Mayer himself published comparatively little.  Mayer is best known for intra-mural activities to maintain the Austrian School tradition at Vienna against Spann's aspirations and  for shepherding the department during the difficult years after the rise of the Austro-fascism in 1934.  But Mayer's notoriety rests on being the only member of the Austrian School that remained in Vienna after the Anschluss of 1938, and for accommodating himself with the Nazi authorities, including implementing their requests a little too eagerly (e.g. Mayer ordered the expulsion of all Jewish members of the NÖG within the first week).  No less sinisterly, although Spann and his cohort had been the first to be purged from Vienna, Mayer urged the Nazi authorities the proscribe Spann's publications, on the grounds that is was insufficiently anti-Semitic. 

The ever-adaptable Mayer stayed on after the war, both at Vienna and at the head of  NÖG and the ZfN, until his retirement in 1950.



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Major Works of Hans Mayer

  • "Untersuchungen zu dem Gruntgesetz der wirtschaftlichen Wertrechnung", 1921-28, ZfVS.
  • Die Wirtschaftstheorie der Gegenwart, 1927-32.
  • Der Enrkenntniswert der funktionellen Preistheorien, 1932.




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Resources on  Hans Mayer

  • "Hans Mayer, Last Knight of the Austrian School, Vienna Branch" by Hansjoerg Klausinger (pdf)


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