Vilfredo Pareto

Vilfredo Pareto
Vilfredo Pareto 1870s2.jpg
Born(1848-07-15)15 July 1848
Paris, France
Died19 August 1923(1923-08-19) (aged 75)
Céligny, Switzerland
InstitutionsUniversity of Lausanne
School or
Lausanne School
Italian school of elitism[1][2]
Alma materTechnical School for Engineers in Turin
ContributionsPareto index
Pareto chart
Pareto principle
Pareto efficiency
Pareto distribution
Vilfredo Pareto signature.png

Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto (/; Italian: [vilˈfreːdo paˈreːto]; born Wilfried Fritz Pareto, 15 July 1848 – 19 August 1923) was an Italian engineer, sociologist, economist, political scientist, and philosopher. He made several important contributions to economics, particularly in the study of income distribution and in the analysis of individuals' choices. He was also responsible for popularising the use of the term "elite" in social analysis.

He introduced the concept of Pareto efficiency and helped develop the field of microeconomics. He was also the first to discover that income follows a Pareto distribution, which is a power law probability distribution. The Pareto principle was named after him, and it was built on observations of his such as that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by about 20% of the population. He also contributed to the fields of sociology and mathematics, according to the mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot and Richard L. Hudson:

His legacy as an economist was profound. Partly because of him, the field evolved from a branch of moral philosophy as practised by Adam Smith into a data intensive field of scientific research and mathematical equations. His books look more like modern economics than most other texts of that day: tables of statistics from across the world and ages, rows of integral signs and equations, intricate charts and graphs.[3]


Pareto was born of an exiled noble Genoese family in 1848 in Paris, the centre of the popular revolutions of that year. His father, Raffaele Pareto (1812–1882), was an Italian civil engineer and Ligurian marquis who had left Italy much like Giuseppe Mazzini and other Italian nationalists.[4] His mother, Marie Metenier, was a French woman. Enthusiastic about the 1848 German revolution, his parents named him Fritz Wilfried, which became Vilfredo Federico upon his family's move back to Italy in 1858.[5] In his childhood, Pareto lived in a middle-class environment, receiving a high standard of education, attending the new created Istituto Tecnico Leardi where Fernando Pio Rosellini was his mathematics professor.[6] In 1869, he earned a doctor's degree in engineering from what is now the Polytechnic University of Turin[4] (then the Technical School for Engineers). His dissertation was entitled "The Fundamental Principles of Equilibrium in Solid Bodies". His later interest in equilibrium analysis in economics and sociology can be traced back to this paper.

From civil engineer to classical liberal economist

For some years after graduation, he worked as a civil engineer, first for the state-owned Italian Railway Company and later in private industry. He was manager of the Iron Works of San Giovanni Valdarno and later general manager of Italian Iron Works.[4]

He did not begin serious work in economics until his mid-forties. He started his career a fiery advocate of classical liberalism, besting the most ardent British liberals with his attacks on any form of government intervention in the free market. In 1886, he became a lecturer on economics and management at the University of Florence. His stay in Florence was marked by political activity, much of it fueled by his own frustrations with government regulators. In 1889, after the death of his parents, Pareto changed his lifestyle, quitting his job and marrying a Russian, Alessandrina Bakunina. She left him in 1902 for a young servant.

Economics and sociology

In 1893, he succeeded Léon Walras to the chair of Political Economy at the University of Lausanne[4] in Switzerland where he remained for the rest of his life. In 1906, he made the famous observation that twenty percent of the population owned eighty percent of the property in Italy, later generalised by Joseph M. Juran into the Pareto principle (also termed the 80–20 rule). In one of his books published in 1909 he showed the Pareto distribution of how wealth is distributed, he believed "through any human society, in any age, or country".[7] He maintained cordial personal relationships with individual socialists, but always thought their economic ideas were severely flawed. He later became suspicious of their humanitarian motives and denounced socialist leaders as an 'aristocracy of brigands' who threatened to despoil the country and criticized the government of Giovanni Giolitti for not taking a tougher stance against worker strikes. Growing unrest among labor in Italy led him to the anti-socialist and anti-democratic camp.[8] His attitude toward fascism in his last years is a matter of controversy.[9][10]

Pareto's relationship with scientific sociology in the age of the foundation is grafted in a paradigmatic way in the moment in which he, starting from the political economy, criticizes positivism as a totalizing and metaphysical system devoid of a rigorous logical-experimental method. In this sense we can read the fate of the Paretian production within a history of the social sciences that continues to show its peculiarity and interest for its contributions in the 21st century (Giovanni Busino, Sugli studi paretiani all'alba del XXI secolo in Omaggio a Vilfredo Pareto, Numero monografico in memoria di Giorgio Sola a cura di Stefano Monti Bragadin, "Storia Politica Società", Quaderni di Scienze Umane, anno IX, n. 15, giugno-dicembre 2009, p. 1 e sg.)) . The story of Pareto is also part of the multidisciplinary research of a scientific model that privileges sociology as a critique of cumulative models of knowledge as well as a discipline tending to the affirmation of relational models of science (Guglielmo Rinzivillo, Vilfredo Pareto e i modelli interdisciplinari nella scienza, "Sociologia", A. XXIX , n. 1, New Series, 1995, pp. 2017-222 see also in Guglielmo Rinzivillo, Una epistemologia senza storia, Rome, New Culture, 2013, pp. 13-29, ISBN 978-88-6812-222-5).

Personal life

In 1923 Pareto remarried with Jeanne Regis, just before he died in Geneva, Switzerland, 19 August 1923,[11] "among a menagerie of cats that he and his French lover kept" in their villa; "the local divorce laws prevented him from divorcing his wife and remarrying until just a few months prior to his death".

Other Languages
azərbaycanca: Vilfredo Pareto
беларуская: Вільфрэда Парэта
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Вільфрэда Парэта
български: Вилфредо Парето
bosanski: Vilfredo Pareto
čeština: Vilfredo Pareto
español: Vilfredo Pareto
Esperanto: Vilfredo Pareto
français: Vilfredo Pareto
hrvatski: Vilfredo Pareto
Bahasa Indonesia: Vilfredo Pareto
italiano: Vilfredo Pareto
Lëtzebuergesch: Vilfredo Pareto
lietuvių: Vilfredo Pareto
Bahasa Melayu: Vilfredo Pareto
Nederlands: Vilfredo Pareto
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Pareto Vilfredo
português: Vilfredo Pareto
română: Vilfredo Pareto
Simple English: Vilfredo Pareto
slovenčina: Vilfredo Pareto
slovenščina: Vilfredo Pareto
српски / srpski: Вилфредо Парето
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Vilfredo Pareto
Türkçe: Vilfredo Pareto
українська: Вільфредо Парето
Tiếng Việt: Vilfredo Pareto
中文: 帕累托