New PDF release: A History of Economic Thought

By Lionel Robbins

Those lectures, brought on the London university of Economics among 1979 and 1981 and tape-recorded via Robbins's grandson, demonstrate his mastery of the highbrow heritage of economics and his enthusiasm for the topic. They hide a vast chronological diversity, starting with Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas, focusing largely on Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus and the classicals, and completing with a dialogue of moderns and marginalists from Marx to Alfred Marshall. Robbins takes a assorted and inclusive method of intellectural historical past and the lectures are united by means of his conviction that it truly is very unlikely to appreciate effectively modern associations and social sciences with out figuring out the tips at the back of their improvement.

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The same may be said of all possessions, for the art of exchange extends to all of them, and it arises at first in a natural manner from the circumstance that some have too little, others too much. Hence we may infer that retail trade is not a natural part of the art of money-making; had it been so, men would have ceased to exchange when they had enough. And in the first community, which is the family, this art is obviously of no use, but only begins to be useful when the society increases. For the members of the family originally had all things in common; in a more divided state of society they still shared in many things, but they were different things which they had to give in exchange for what they wanted, • P L A T O A N D A R I S T O T L E • 21 a kind of barter which is still practised among barbarous nations who exchange with one another the necessaries of life and nothing more; giving and receiving wine, for example, in exchange for corn and the like.

He incidentally was a poet of some standing, and, as I say, whether you agree with him or not Plato is a delight to read. Whereas, we don’t possess the origin of Aristotle’s lectures; we only possess student notes, and student notes are not always as veracious an account of what has been said, and they are not necessarily so enjoyable to read. But for all that, it is Aristotle rather than Plato among the Greeks to whom you should look for influence on subsequent thought. ” Before the Renaissance Plato was not at all well known, whereas “the Philosopher” was appealed to by most of the writers on moral philosophy from Thomas Aquinas downward.

Now, you will notice that there is a great difference between the principles of the division of labour and the principles of the division of labour here in the famous first chapter of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations [1776]. Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations dwells all, or nearly all, upon education. He says that at birth the difference between a philosopher and a porter is negligible. It’s all what happens afterwards that makes the division of labour possible. Plato, on the other hand, doesn’t talk about education here (he talks about the education of the Guardians later on), he talks about differences of nature.

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A History of Economic Thought by Lionel Robbins


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