Retrospectives: On the Definition of Economics
Modern economists do not subscribe to a homogeneous definition of their subject. Surveying definitions of economics from contemporary principles of economics textbooks, we find that economics is the study of the economy, the study of the coordination process, the study of the effects of scarcity, the science of choice, and the study of human behavior. At a time when economists are tackling subjects as diverse as growth, auctions, crime, and religion with a methodological toolkit that includes real analysis, econometrics, laboratory experiments, and historical case studies, and when they are debating the explanatory roles of rationality and behavioral norms, any concise definition of economics is likely to be inadequate. This lack of agreement on a definition does not necessarily pose a problem for the subject. Economists are generally guided by pragmatic considerations of what works or by methodological views emanating from various sources, not by formal definitions: to repeat the comment attributed to Jacob Viner, economics is what economists do. However, the way the definition of economics has evolved is more than a historical curiosity. At times, definitions are used to justify what economists are doing. Definitions can also reflect the direction in which their authors want to see the subject move and can even influence practice.
Volume (Year): 23 (2009)
Issue (Month): 1 (Winter)
|Contact details of provider:|| Web page: https://www.aeaweb.org/jep/Email: |
More information through EDIRC
|Order Information:||Web: https://www.aeaweb.org/subscribe.html|
References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Jacob Mincer, 1958. "Investment in Human Capital and Personal Income Distribution," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 66, pages 281.
- Amadae, S.M., 2003. "Rationalizing Capitalist Democracy," University of Chicago Press Economics Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 1, number 9780226016535.
- Gary S. Becker, 1968.
"Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach,"
Journal of Political Economy,
University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 169.
- Ricardo, David, 1821. "On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, edition 3, number ricardo1821.
- Philippe Fontaine, 1996. "The French Economists and Politics, 1750-1850: The Science and Art of Political Economy," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 29(2), pages 379-93, May.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:23:y:2009:i:1:p:221-33. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Jane Voros)or (Michael P. Albert)
If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.
If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.
If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.
Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.