Some Methodological Debates of the 1930s

Bruce Caldwell

in Hayek's Challenge

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print November 2003 | ISBN: 9780226091914
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226091921 | DOI:
Some Methodological Debates of the 1930s

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This chapter considers Lionel Robbins's response to the American institutionalists and British critics of economics, from Ruskin and Carlyle, to defenders of historicism, to pundits writing for the weeklies. Working within a tradition that dated back to Senior and Cairnes, Robbins sought both to specify the proper scope of the field of economics and to make clear the nature of the generalizations on which it was based. Many classical and neoclassical economists had argued that economics was the study of the material causes of welfare. Drawing on the work of Philip Wicksteed and the Austrians, Robbins offers in its stead the definition that one may still find today in the opening chapters of introductory economic textbooks: “Economics is the science which studies human behavior as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses”.

Keywords: Lionel Robbins; institutionalism; economics; welfare; ends; means

Chapter.  9164 words. 

Subjects: Economic History

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