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What Is The Criticism On Alfred Marshal Definition Of Economics?

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Uzma Shahzad Profile
Uzma Shahzad answered
Lionel Robbins criticized Marshal's definition of economics in his book "Nature and Significance of Economic Science". That was written in 1932. He particularly focused the phrase "material requisites of well being". The points of his criticism are as follows:
It limits the scope of economics:

Marshal says that in economics we study production and consumption of material requisites or good only e.g. Radio, TV, furniture, book etc. he therefore excludes non material requisites of well being e.g. services of doctors, teachers and advocates etc. Thus, he has limited the scope of Economics.

Material requisites which don't promote welfare are excluded:
Marshal includes in his definition of economics only those requisites which promote welfare and excluded those which don't promote welfare e.g. drugs, cigarettes, alcoholic drinks etc. therefore, Robbins is trying to say is "just satisfy wants and don't bother whether they are for the better or the worse".

Welfare is not measurable concept:
According to Robbins welfare is not measurable concept whereas in economics we should use measurable concepts. According to him, it can not be calculated that how much welfare a good will give to an individual or a society.
Problems in policy making:
Marshal's definition of economics creates a problem of liking and disliking on the basis of welfare e.g. wine should not be taken and cake can be taken. This retards human freedom for the satisfaction of wants.
Tahir Mahmood Profile
Tahir Mahmood answered
Lionel Robbins led on frontal attack on the Marshallian view in the study of economics. The main points of criticism are:

1. Welfare is not measurable. It varies from individual to individual, person to person and age to age. A thing may give pleasure to a person but it may be harmful for the others. There is not any instrument for its measurement. Robbins criticizes the idea of welfare. It is difficult to decide what welfare is and what not welfare is. There are many activities which do not promote the human welfare but they are regarded economic activities e.g. the manufacturing and sale of alcohol etc.

2. Marshall's definition has limited the scope of economics. As according to Marshall economics is concerned only with material welfare. According to him all those activities which do not promote the material welfare are totally ignored. As they are immaterial. Robbins does not think it right for the economists to confine their attention to the study of material welfare, because in the actual study of economic principles, both the material and immaterial are taken into account. Robbins rejected Marshall's definition as being classificatory because it makes a distinction between material welfare and non-material welfare and says that economics is concerned only with material welfare.

3. As Marshal said Economics is a study of mankind in the ordinary business of life. It is difficult to know, what is the difference between ordinary course of business and extra ordinary course of business?
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Anonymous answered

Thanks for your answers...!

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