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John Gray

(c. 1799—1883) socialist and writer on economics


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Gray was born about 1799, and died on 26 April 1883 at Upper Norwood, London. His origins are rather shadowy, though he was said to be of Scottish extraction and it was in Scotland that he spent much of his life. According to his own account, he attended Repton School, Derbyshire, began work in London at fourteen, developed an interest in social questions and by his early twenties had formulated ideas similar to those of Owenite reformers. In 1825 he published A Lecture on Human Happiness, a socialistic analysis designed to show how those whose labour created wealth were exploited by the useless classes. Drawing on the statistical material in Patrick colquhoun’s Treatise on the Wealth, Power and Resources of the British Empire (1814), Gray maintained that the productive classes enjoyed only a fifth of the wealth they produced. His remedy was to change the institutions of society to promote the happiness of man rather than perpetuate his misery. He saw co-operative communities as a means of replacing capitalism and was drawn to the Orbiston estate near Motherwell in 1825. On witnessing the community that Abram Combe was establishing there, Gray was struck by its inadequacies, and he stated these in pamphlet form as A Word of Advice to the Orbistonians. Remaining in Scotland, he began various publishing ventures and appears to have struggled financially for a while, although later in life he prospered in business.

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From The Biographical Dictionary of British Economists in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Economics.


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