English Marginalism_ Jevons, Marshall, and Pigou

English Marginalism_ Jevons, Marshall, and Pigou - 16...

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16. English Marginalism: Jevons, Marshall, and Pigou Peter Groenewegen Subject Economics » History of Thought Place United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland » England DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631225737.2003.00017.x 16.1 Introduction English marginalism embraces a group of economists, active in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, who used the marginalist method for analyzing economic questions relating, in the first instance, to the theories of value and distribution, and later to a wider range of economic questions in the theories of money, fluctuations, income determination, and growth. Jevons, Marshall, and Pigou were major contributors to this “marginal revolution” in England, but not the only important pioneers. Edgeworth and Wicksteed (both contemporaries of Jevons and Marshall) and Marshall's Cambridge students, of whom Pigou was among the first, are also important. The “marginal revolution” had a well-known international dimension (see Horwitz, ch. 17, this volume; Walker, ch. 18, this volume) and its impact continues to reverberate in economic theory. The concept of marginalism itself has received surprisingly little attention in the history of economics literature. The word was slow to creep into the lan-guage of English economics. As Howey (1972) indicates, it was first used by J. A. Hobson (1914 , pp. 174–5, 331–2) in a derogatory manner. The original Palgrave Dictionary of Political Economy did not have an article on “marginalism.” How-ever, Edgeworth's second article on “margin” in its final paragraphs described the widespread use by mathematical economists of “margins” in economics in both its theories of consumption and production, to which “Jevons' exposition… forms an admirable introduction… [while their] fullest and most accurate exposition… is to be found in Prof. Marshall's Princ. of Econ .” ( Edgeworth, 1894 , p. 691). The later Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences ( Seligman, 1948 [1930] ) likewise contains no article specifically devoted to “marginalism.” The same applies to the New Palgrave Dictionary ( Eatwell et al., 1987 ), which contains articles on “marginal and average cost pricing,” “marginal efficiency of capital,” “marginal productivity theory,” and “marginal utility of money” as well as an article on “marginalist economics.” The last acknowledges “the almost total domination that marginalist economics has enjoyed for about a century” without igniting the “spark of an ultimate truth” ( Campus, 1987 , pp. 321–2). The second quoted remark is a comment from Sraffa (1926 , p. 535), foreshadowing his prelude to a critique of the dominant marginalist method ( Sraffa, 1960 , esp. p. v). This chapter is basically concerned with Jevons's application of the marginal method as one of
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This note was uploaded on 03/31/2010 for the course ECONOMICS 321 taught by Professor H during the Spring '10 term at Kadir Has Üniversitesi.

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English Marginalism_ Jevons, Marshall, and Pigou - 16...

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