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Lionel Charles Robbins, Baron Robbins, FBA (22 November 1898 - 15 May 1984) was a British economist and head of the economics department at the London School of Economics. He is known for his proposed definition of economics, and for his instrumental efforts in shifting Anglo-Saxon economics from its Marshallian direction.

Contents

Theories and influences

Robbins is famous for his definition of economics:

"Economics is a science which studies human behavior as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses."

A follower of William Stanley Jevons and Philip Wicksteed, he was influenced by the Continental European economists: Léon Walras, Vilfredo Pareto, Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, Friedrich Hayek, Friedrich von Wieser and Knut Wicksell. Robbins succeeded Allyn Young in the chair of the London School of Economics in 1929. Among his first appointments was Friedrich A. Hayek, who bred a new generation of English-speaking "continentals" such as John Hicks, Nicholas Kaldor, Abba Lerner and Tibor Scitovsky. Frank Knight was an American influence on Robbins.

Robbins was very familiar with the work of economists in Continental Europe. Robbins became involved in the socialist calculation debate on the side of Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises, and against Abba Lerner, Fred Taylor, and Oscar Lange.

Robbins was initially opposed to Keynes's General Theory, and the evolution of his explanation of economic development has been criticised several times. His 1934 treatise on the Great Depression is an analysis of that period. Robbins saw his London School of Economics as a bulwark against Cambridge, whether it was populated by Marshallians or Keynesians. However, he was eventually to recant and accept the Keynesian Revolution.[1] Robbins' 1966 Chichele lecture on the accumulation of capital (published in 1968) and later work on Smithian economics, The Theory of Economic Policy in English Classical Political Economy, have been described as imprecise.[2]

Although the ascendancy of the London School of Economics is foremost among Robbins' legacies, he was a free market economist who was also greatly responsible for the modern British university system—having advocated in the Robbins Report its massive expansion in the 1960s.[3] He became the first Chancellor of the new University of Stirling in 1968. He also advocated massive government support for the arts, in addition to universities.[3]

In the latter part of his life, Robbins turned to the history of economic thought, publishing various classic studies on English doctrinal history. Robbins' L.S.E. lectures, as he gave them in 1980 (more than fifty years after he first taught the subject upon his appointment in 1929), have been published posthumously (see 1998).

In 1959 he was created a life peer as Baron Robbins, of Clare Market in the City of Westminster.

Works

Robbins' early essays were combative in spirit, stressing the subjectivist theory of value beyond what Anglo-Saxon economics had been used to. He wrote a famous 1932 essay on economic methodology. His work on costs (1930, 1934) brought Wieser's "alternative cost" theorem of supply to England (which was opposed to Marshall's "real cost" theory of supply). His critique of the Marshallian theory of the representative firm (1928), and his critique of the Pigovian Welfare Economics (1932, 1938), influenced the end of the Marshallian empire.

In his Essay on the Nature and Significance of Economic Science, Robbins made his Continental credentials clear. Redefining the scope of economics to be "the science which studies human behavior as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses" (Robbins, 1932). His defense of a priori theory and attack on Marshallian intuitionism is reminiscent of Ludwig von Mises' essay.

List of Works

  • "Principles Of Economics", 1923, "Economics"
  • "Dynamics of Capitalism", 1926, Economica.
  • "The Optimum Theory of Population", 1927, in Gregory and Dalton, editors, London Essays in Economics.
  • "The Representative Firm", 1928, EJ.
  • "On a Certain Ambiguity in the Conception of Stationary Equilibrium", 1930, EJ.
  • Essay on the Nature and Significance of Economic Science, 1932.
  • "Remarks on the Relationship between Economics and Psychology", 1934, Manchester School.
  • "Remarks on Some Aspects of the Theory of Costs", 1934, EJ.
  • The Great Depression, 1934.
  • "The Place of Jevons in the History of Economic Thought", 1936, Manchester School.
  • "Interpersonal Comparisons of Utility: A Comment", 1938, EJ.
  • The Economic Causes of War, 1939.
  • The Economic Problem in Peace and War, 1947.
  • The Theory of Economic Policy in English Classical Political Economy, 1952.
  • Robert Torrens and the Evolution of Classical Economics, 1958.
  • Politics and Economics, 1963.
  • The University in the Modern World, 1966.
  • The Theory of Economic Development in the History of Economic Thought, 1968.
  • Jacob Viner: A tribute, 1970.
  • The Evolution of Modern Economic Theory, 1970.
  • Autobiography of an Economist, 1971.
  • Political Economy, Past and Present, 1976.
  • Against Inflation, 1979.
  • Higher Education Revisited, 1980.
  • "Economics and Political Economy", 1981, AER.
  • A History of Economic Thought: the LSE Lectures, edited by Warren J. Samuels and Steven G. Medema, 1998.

References

  1. ^ The Economic Problem in Peace and War - Some Reflections on Objectives and Mechanisms, Read Books, 2007 (1st ed. 1947), pp. 68 («I owe much to Cambridge economists, particularly to Lord Keynes and Professor Robertson, for having awakened me from dogmatic slumbers»), 82-83.
  2. ^ Grampp, William D. (April 1972). "Robbins on the History of Development Theory". Economic Development and Cultural Change 20 (3): 539–553. ISSN 0013-0079.  
  3. ^ a b Frum, David (2000). How We Got Here: The '70s. New York, New York: Basic Books. p. 7. ISBN 0465041957.  

External links

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