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What Was “It” that Robbins Was Defining?

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  • David COlander

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Abstract

This paper argues that Robbins’ famous definition of economics was of “economic science” which he saw as only a narrow branch of the field of economics. The field of economics included both economic science—which his definition dealt with, and political economy--which his essay did not deal with. His prescriptive message was that policy belonged in the “political economy” branch of economics. He believed that while the science of economics should avoid value judgments as much as possible, the political economy (applied policy) branch of economics should, and must, include value judgments. That prescriptive message has been lost.

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File URL: http://www.middlebury.edu/services/econ/repec/mdl/ancoec/0914.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Middlebury College, Department of Economics in its series Middlebury College Working Paper Series with number 0914.

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Length: 16 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mdl:mdlpap:0914

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Keywords: : definition of economics; political economy; science of economics; Robbins; value judgments;

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References

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  1. Colander, David, 1993. "The Lost Art of Economics: Response," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 7(3), pages 213-15, Summer.
  2. Keynes, John Neville, 1890. "The Scope and Method of Political Economy," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, edition 4, number keynes1890.
  3. Sen, Amartya, 1970. "The Impossibility of a Paretian Liberal," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 78(1), pages 152-57, Jan.-Feb..
  4. Colander, David, 2003. "The Aging of an Economist," Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Cambridge University Press, vol. 25(02), pages 157-176, June.
  5. Sen, Amartya Kumar, 1970. "The Impossibility of a Paretian Liberal," Scholarly Articles 3612779, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  6. Robbins, Lionel [Lord], 1981. "Economics and Political Economy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(2), pages 1-10, May.
  7. Daniel T. Slesnick, 1998. "Empirical Approaches to the Measurement of Welfare," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(4), pages 2108-2165, December.
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Citations

Blog mentions

As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
  1. Robbins, economic science and political economy
    by Nicholas Gruen in Club Troppo on 2009-10-25 00:21:15
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Cited by:
  1. David Colander, 2009. "How Did Macro Theory Get So Far off Track, and what Can Heterodox Macroeconomists Do to Get it Back On Track?," Middlebury College Working Paper Series 0911, Middlebury College, Department of Economics.
  2. Dave Colander, 2008. "The Making of a Global European Economist," Middlebury College Working Paper Series 0809, Middlebury College, Department of Economics.
  3. David Colander, 2009. "“What is so Austrian about Austrian Economics?”," Middlebury College Working Paper Series 0910, Middlebury College, Department of Economics.
  4. Pinto, Hugo, 2009. "A Economia em Ebulição: Integrando o Plural e a Moral numa Ciência Económica Satisfatória
    [Economics in Turmoil: Integrating Moral and Plural in a Satisfactory Economic Science]
    ," MPRA Paper 18718, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  5. David Colander & Hugo Ñopo, 2011. "Educating Latin American economists," International Review of Economic Education, Economics Network, University of Bristol, vol. 10(1), pages 54-69.
  6. David Colander & Hugo Nopo Key Words: Latin American economics, global economics, political economy, graduate training, Latin America, applied economics, 2007. "The Making of a Latin American Global Economist," Middlebury College Working Paper Series 0705, Middlebury College, Department of Economics.
  7. Colander, David C., 2009. "Economists, incentives, judgment, and the European CVAR approach to macroeconometrics," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, Kiel Institute for the World Economy, vol. 3(9), pages 1-21.

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