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Caryle, Malthus and Sismondi: The Origins of Carlyle’s Dismal View of Political Economy

  • Robert Dixon

While it is correct to say that Carlyle first applied the exact phrase “dismal science” to political economy in his 1849 article on plantation labour in the West Indies, I argue that Carlyle came to the view that political economy was “dismal” well before that time. Indeed, his negative attitude can be seen quite clearly in his earlier published reactions to the writings of Malthus (and Sismondi, amongst others) on population growth and its consequences and also to the perceived ‘materialistic’ nature of the subject matter of political economy.

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Paper provided by The University of Melbourne in its series Department of Economics - Working Papers Series with number 965.

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Length: 11 pages
Date of creation: 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mlb:wpaper:965
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  1. Persky, Joseph, 1990. "A Dismal Romantic," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 4(4), pages 165-72, Fall.
  2. Dixon, R., 1999. "The Origin of the Term "Dismal Science" to Describe Economics," Department of Economics - Working Papers Series 715, The University of Melbourne.
  3. Levy, David M., 2001. "How the Dismal Science Got its Name: Debating Racial Quackery," Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Cambridge University Press, vol. 23(01), pages 5-35, March.
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