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From the Theory of Value to the Debate about Débouchés: A Comparison between Say and Malthus - Dalla teoria del valore al dibattito sugli sbocchi: un confronto fra Say e Malthus


  • Soliani, Riccardo

    () (Università di Genova, Dipartimento di Economia e Metodi Quantitativi)


Between J-B. Say and R. Malthus an important debate took place, witnessed by a number of letters and quotations, mainly concerning the débouchés problem. Quite surprisingly, the respective theories of values are never under discussion in their correspondence, nor quotations on them can be easily found in their works. In this paper we discuss how Say’s and Malthus’s theories, which are so close as long as the value’s theme is concerned, could lead to utterly opposite conclusions about the problem of débouchés. The roots of the remarkable difference between them is to be traced: first, in their respective vision of composition and evolution of demand stemming from the different social classes and, secondly, in a less explicit analytical divergency about the role played by demand in determining profits. Thus the contrast in the social vision of Say and Malthus, coupled with the difference in their analytical approach, can explain the puzzle of two authors whose theories of value were quite similar and expectations about the future landscape of capitalism were divergent. - Fra J-B. Say e R. Malthus ebbe luogo un importante dibattito, testimoniato da numerose lettere e citazioni, concernente soprattutto il problema degli sbocchi. Curiosamente, le rispettive teorie del valore non vengono mai discusse nella loro corrispondenza, né è agevole trovarle citate nei loro testi. In questo studio discutiamo come le teorie di Say e di Maltus, vicine per quanto riguarda il tema del valore, possano condurre a conclusioni del tutto opposte circa la questione degli sbocchi. Le radici della notevole differenza fra di essi si devono rintracciare: in primo luogo, nelle rispettive visioni della composizione ed evoluzione della domanda proveniente dalle diverse classi sociali, e, in secondo luogo, in una divergenza analitica meno evidente circa il ruolo svolto dalla domanda nella determinazione dei profitti. Così il contrasto nella visione sociale di Say e Malthus, insieme con la differenza nel loro approccio analitico, possono spiegare la circostanza di due autori le cui teorie del valore sono piuttosto simili e le aspettative sul futuro assetto del capitalismo sono divergenti.

Suggested Citation

  • Soliani, Riccardo, 2012. "From the Theory of Value to the Debate about Débouchés: A Comparison between Say and Malthus - Dalla teoria del valore al dibattito sugli sbocchi: un confronto fra Say e Malthus," Economia Internazionale / International Economics, Camera di Commercio Industria Artigianato Agricoltura di Genova, vol. 65(1), pages 149-171.
  • Handle: RePEc:ris:ecoint:0643

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Smith, Adam, 1776. "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number smith1776.
    2. Evelyn Forget, 1993. "J.-B. Say and Adam Smith: An Essay in the Transmission of Ideas," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 26(1), pages 121-133, February.
    3. Garegnani, Pierangelo, 1984. "Piero Sraffa," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 8(1), pages 1-2, March.
    4. Costabile, Lilia & Rowthorn, Bob, 1985. "Malthus's Theory of Wages and Growth," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 95(378), pages 418-437, June.
    5. Richard Arena, 1979. "Note sur la conception classique de la concurrence," Cahiers d'Économie Politique, Programme National Persée, vol. 5(1), pages 119-148.
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    More about this item


    Classical Political Economy; Theory of Value and Distribution; Malthus; Thomas Robert; Say; Jean-Baptiste;

    JEL classification:

    • B12 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought through 1925 - - - Classical (includes Adam Smith)
    • B31 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought: Individuals - - - Individuals


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