Economics: Rational Action or Social Science? Marshall vs. Edgeworth in re ‘The Social Question’
Richard E. Wagner
George Mason University - Department of Economics
August 18, 2010
GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 10-23
This paper uses Alfred Marshall’s treatment of wants and activities and Francis Edgeworth’s treatment of utilitarian redistribution to re-examine what since the 19th century has been described as “the social question.” This comparative examination is prefaced by a distinction between economics construed as a science of rational action and economics construed as a genuine social science. This distinction provides background for the subsequent comparison between an economics centered on wants and an economics centered on activities, with Edgeworth serving as an exemplar of the former and Marshall an exemplar of the latter. The Edgeworthian orientation approaches the social question through leveling, and also supports a purely formal approach to welfare economics. The Marshallian orientation approaches the social question through raising, and also supports a substantive approach to welfare economics.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 35
Keywords: wants vs. activities, raising vs. leveling, social question, mind-society bi-directionality, Alfred Marshall, Francis Edgeworth
JEL Classification: B13, B31, B52, D63, Z13working papers series
Date posted: August 21, 2010
© 2013 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
This page was processed by apollo4 in 0.360 seconds