A History of Economic Thought

A History of Economic Thought

Lionel Robbins, Steven G. Medema, Warren J. Samuels

Language: English

Pages: 393

ISBN: 0691070148

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Lionel Robbins's now famous lectures on the history of economic thought comprise one of the greatest accounts since World War II of the evolution of economic ideas. This volume represents the first time those lectures have been published.

Lord Robbins (1898-1984) was a remarkably accomplished thinker, writer, and public figure. He made important contributions to economic theory, methodology, and policy analysis, directed the economic section of Winston Churchill's War Cabinet, and served as chairman of the Financial Times. As a historian of economic ideas, he ranks with Joseph Schumpeter and Jacob Viner as one of the foremost scholars of the century. These lectures, delivered at the London School of Economics between 1979 and 1981 and tape-recorded by Robbins's grandson, display his mastery of the intellectual history of economics, his infectious enthusiasm for the subject, and his eloquence and incisive wit. They cover a broad chronological range, beginning with Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas, focusing extensively on Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus and the classicals, and finishing with a discussion of moderns and marginalists from Marx to Alfred Marshall. Robbins takes a varied and inclusive approach to intellectual history. As he says in his first lecture: "I shall go my own sweet way--sometimes talk about doctrine, sometimes talk about persons, sometimes talk about periods." The lectures are united by Robbins's conviction that it is impossible to understand adequately contemporary institutions and social sciences without understanding the ideas behind their development.

Authoritative yet accessible, combining the immediacy of the spoken word with Robbins's exceptional talent for clear, well-organized exposition, this volume will be welcomed by anyone interested in the intellectual origins of the modern world.















economic thought may be useful to you—I shall touch on that in a moment—then in the next ten years you ought to read most of the books that I recommend. But since the master’s degree takes one or two years, you too are not expected to read nearly all the things that are enumerated there. Well, I think I’ve said enough about that. Now, I want to devote this lecture first of all to some general observations about the subject matter, and then, unless I’ve lost my sense of timing during August, I

of economic thought, to use Schumpeter’s [1954, pp. 38–40] phrase distinguishing general ideas about economic arrangements from economic analysis; it is in economic analysis that Aristotle’s influence has been so long-lasting. But now, you must notice at once that Aristotle would not have called his remarks on this subject political economy or economics in our sense of the term. For Aristotle, at any rate, the term economy related to household management, and it is in the course of his discussion

reasonably accessible in various reprints. This one that I hold in my hands is republished by the Economic History Society by Blackwells [Mun, 1664]. Mun’s book is of exceptional importance, partly by reason of its intellectual quality, partly by reason of the fact that it was singled out by Adam Smith as being the bible of mercantilism. He says in Cannan’s edition of The Wealth of Nations: “The title of Mun’s book, England’s Treasure [by] Foreign Trade, became a fundamental maxim in the

rather rambling remarks about the interest problem in general, he develops a quantity theory of money and a determination of the price level—I am using modern terminology here—which in some respects is ampler than anything else that you will find in the earlier literature, except in the terse remarks of Petty in his Quantulumcunque [1682]. And certainly on page 22 of the appropriate volume [vol. 4] in the ninth edition of Locke’s works, there is an analysis of velocity of circulation, which

to book 2, and that ought not to take so long. Book 2 is called “Of the Nature, Accumulation, and Employment of Stock,” and it is quite as important in the history of economic thought as book 1. It starts with an introduction which lays it down that division of labour depends upon the accumulation and employment of stock, which is his name for what we should call real capital. And he explains that the “stock of goods of different kinds . . . must be stored up . . . sufficient to maintain [those

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