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Defining Economics: The Long Road to Acceptance of the Robbins Definition

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  • ROGER E. BACKHOUSE
  • STEVE G. MEDEMA

Abstract

Robbins' "Essay" gave economics a definition that came to dominate the professional literature. This definition laid a foundation that could be seen as justifying both the narrowing of economic theory to the theory of constrained maximization or rational choice and economists' ventures into other social science fields. Though often presented as self-evidently correct, both the definition itself and the developments that it has been used to support were keenly contested. This paper traces the reception, diffusion and contesting of the Robbins definition, arguing that this process took around three decades and that even then there was still significant dissent. Copyright (c) The London School of Economics and Political Science 2009.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by London School of Economics and Political Science in its journal Economica.

Volume (Year): 76 (2009)
Issue (Month): s1 (October)
Pages: 805-820

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Handle: RePEc:bla:econom:v:76:y:2009:i:s1:p:805-820

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Cited by:
  1. Pedro Garcia Duarte & Gilberto Tadeu Lima, 2011. "Privileging Micro over Macro? A History of Conflicting Positions," Working Papers, Department of Economics 2011_01, University of São Paulo (FEA-USP).
  2. Li, Cheng, 2014. "Rationality and Beyond: A Critique of the Nature and Task of Economics," MPRA Paper 56651, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  3. Vahabi, Mehrdad, 2012. "A Note on Backhouse and Medema: On Walras’ Contribution to the Definition of Economics," MPRA Paper 42673, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Stewart, Alex & Miner, Anne S., 2011. "The prospects for family business in research universities," Journal of Family Business Strategy, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 3-14, March.
  5. Antonio Magliulo, 2010. "The Austrian theory of relational goods," International Review of Economics, Springer, vol. 57(2), pages 143-162, June.

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