Marshall Definition Criticism – Robbins Analysis

Criticism Of Marshall Definition

Adam Smith
Adam Smith

Dr. Marshall’s definition of Economics is a major improvement over the definition of Adam Smith and other ancient Economists. This definition was recognized between 1890 to 1932 and it seemed that the controversy relating to the definition of Economics had ended. But a renowned Professor of The London School of Economics, Prof. Leonel Robbins in his book ‘An Essay of the Nature and Significance of Social Science‘ in 1932 criticized Marshall’s definition in loud words.

  1. Illusion of Anti-Immateriality

    Dr. Marshall has restricted the relation of Economics only to the attainment of material resources and its consumption, whereas Economics also includes the immaterial resources like services of advocates, teachers, and other employees. That is the reason Robin said

    The Economist who keeps in mind only material study, cannot save themselves from the blame of being biased to one aspect.

  2. Vagueness of Ordinary Business Activity

    The phrase used by Dr. Marshall, “The activities relating to the ordinary business of life is unclear and vague because it is not clear, what activities of man corm under ordinary business and winch activities are outside its area.” According to Prof. Robbins, though there are several such activities that come under an ordinary business of life, yet are studied in Economics, like – the study of the economy at the time of war, conditions of Imperfect Competition, Monopoly, etc.

  3. Unclear Economic Activities

    Marshall has divided human activities into two parts, Economic and Non-economic, which is unfair because a similar activity of man can be economic and non-economic also at different times. Like – sweeping his own house by a servant is a non-economic activity while cleaning his employer’s house. becomes an economic activity.

  4. Unfair to Relies Economics with Human Welfare

    According to Prof Robbins, Economics has no relation to human welfare, under this, all kinds of activities must be studied, whether it is related to human welfare or not. He gives the following arguments to prove this

    • Production and consumption of alcohol and other intoxicants is not beneficial for human welfare, still, it is studied in Economics.
    • Human welfare is not a definite idea; it changes according to time, place, and conditions.
    • Human welfare cannot be measured in quantitative terms.
  5. Economics is not only a Social Science but also Human Science

    Prof. Marshall has restricted the field of Economics, by calling it only a social science. On the contrary, according to Prof. Robbins,

    Economics is a human science, whose basic rules apply to an insane, miser, sage or Mahatma in the same mariner, as it applies to all the persons living in a society.

  6. Limited Scope of Economics

    The welfare definitions have restricted the scope of Economics because according to these definitions only material, ordinary and economic activities are studied in Economics. All other activities are outside the scope of Economics.

  7. Economics is Neutral between Objectives

    According to Robbins, “Economics is neutral against objectives. Objectives may be good and also bad, but this has no relation with Economics.” In his book, Prof. Robbins writes, “Whatever Economics is concerned with; it is not concerned with the causes of material welfare”.

  8. Economics is a Real Science

    Based on the definition of Marshall, Economics has become an ideal science, whereas; according to Robbins, “Economics is a real science and not an ideal science“.

From the above criticisms, Marshall’s definition is narrow and unscientific and is stuck in the net of immateriality.

Even after the above criticisms, Marshall’s definition is still a source of inspiration, to the readers. Economists, like – J.M. Keynes, Hyne, and Newman, etc. consider Marshall yet as a “Great knowledgeable Economist”

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