New PDF release: A History of Economic Thought

By Lionel Robbins

Those lectures, brought on the London university of Economics among 1979 and 1981 and tape-recorded by way of Robbins's grandson, demonstrate his mastery of the highbrow historical past of economics and his enthusiasm for the topic. They hide a huge chronological variety, starting with Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas, focusing greatly on Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus and the classicals, and completing with a dialogue of moderns and marginalists from Marx to Alfred Marshall. Robbins takes a diverse and inclusive method of intellectural heritage and the lectures are united by means of his conviction that it's very unlikely to appreciate safely modern associations and social sciences with no figuring out the tips in the back of their improvement.

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The number of shoes which are equivalent to a house or a meal. As a builder then is to a cobbler, so must so many shoes be to a house or a meal; for otherwise there would be no exchange or association. But this will be impossible, unless the shoes and the house or meal are in some sense equalized. Hence arises the necessity of a single universal standard of measurement, as was said before. This standard is in truth the demand for mutual services, which holds society together. [Aristotle, 1948, p.

And similarly with the history of biology, and so on. But when you come to those subjects which are dedicated to the interpretation of social life, I submit that the case is different. Contemporary institutions and contemporary thoughts are shot through with the heritage of the past, and to know how various ideas originated, what their vicissitudes have been, intrinsically in the development • I N T R O D U C T I O N — P L A T O • 7 of the subject, extrinsically in their influence on general thought about society, how they have become transformed, their implications in everyday speech—these are subjects with which, even though you don’t become experts, I do think that those who aspire to call themselves economists in some way or another should have a nodding acquaintance.

Well, the history of the subject is not necessarily important to you in professional life, unless you aspire to teach the subject matter later on. Be under no delusion in that respect. But as regards understanding of what goes on in the contemporary world, of what goes on in intelligent conversation about our subject, the answer is different. The answer is, I think, that the subject is of some use. It’s a subject which, strange as it may seem, has the property of being described—to use the fashionable word—as relevant to your interest in the world around you.

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A History of Economic Thought by Lionel Robbins

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