Introduction to Robbins Definition
Robbin’s definition of Economics challenged Dr. Marshall’s definition of Economics which was a major improvement over the definition of Adam Smith and other ancient Economists. Before Prof. Lionel Robbins, Prof. Marshall tried to give a complete and faultless definition of economics. At that time people started thinking that Economic Science has completely developed and matured. But in 1932, after the publication of Prof. Robbins’s book An Essay on the Nature and Significance of Social Science, a controversy roused in the field of Economics. He tried to give economics another shape, apart from material welfare. In the words of Robbins
Economics is the science which studies human behaviour as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses.
The following are the main characteristics of Robbins’ definition
According to Prof Robbin’s definition, human wants are unlimited. On satisfaction of one wants, another want arises immediately, and this sequence continues forever.
Robbin’s definition stated that on one side human needs are unlimited yet on the other side, the means to satisfy these wants, like- time, power, money, etc. are also limited. Due to this, many of man’s needs remain unsatisfied.
Alternative Use of Scarce Means
In Robbins’s view, though the means to ‘satisfy man’s needs are scarce, it has alternative uses. In other words, he can use every resource for various objectives and activities. For example – a resource like land can be used in many ways, such as it can be used for agriculture or building a house to establish a factory etc.
Variation in the Intensity of wants
Robbin’s definition states that the intensity of man’s needs is different. Some wants are more intense than others. Since our means are limited and all wants cannot be satisfied with the limited means; as a result, we have to select some more intense wants from our unlimited wants and the less intense wants have to be either dropped or postponed to a future date.