Marshalls Main Publications

Marshalls Main Publications

Marshall's main publications include Industry and Trade (19i9), The Pure Theory of Foreign Trade (1879) and Money, Credit and Commerce (2003), but his major contribution to economic thought is contained in The Principles of Economics (1890). He maintained that the principal task of the economist was to study the behaviour of men within the framework of the institutions in which they live. Hence facts must be collected, arranged and interpreted; but the danger must be avoided of presenting interpretations as theorems with universal validity. Institutions changed and man's behaviour was largely determined by them.

In an attempt to make economics a scientific subject, Marshall sought to find a common denominator to measure the activities of men. Hence his analysis was confined to aspects of human behaviour that could be measured in terms of money and were reflected in the price mechanism. The Principles thus set out to examine the general relationships between supply, demand and value. Man's economic behaviour was based upon a delicate balance between the search for satisfaction and the avoidance of sacrifice; this approach enabled Marshall to treat utility and costs as the joint determinants of value. They were like the blades of a pair of scissors, neither cutting solely by its own action. He applied this general scheme to the whole field of economic activity. The individual consumer obtained income by balancing the disutility of effort with the utility derived from spending the income derived from it. Likewise, the pattern of his expenditure was determined by the utility to be obtained from a commodity at the expense of the utility forgone in not buying others. The same theme underlay the activity of the whole economic community in its production and distribution of wealth.

Marshall was, however, very much aware of the difficulty of analysing these activities under rapidly changing conditions, and he therefore based his theories on a foundation of 'static' conditions. In analysing the influences determining value, under different degrees of competition, he distinguished between market value', determined when supply was fixed, and 'normal value', determined in the short period when supply can be increased with unchanged equipment and stocks of labour and in the long period when the amount of plant can be changed. Finally, he said value must be considered in the non-static' period when all economic data such as tastes, technology, population, etc., are likely to change.

Although Marshall designed his work to be of use to the layman and to the business man, his influence was most felt among his fellow economists, and he was soon the most prominent economist of his day. Apart from the general popularity of his works, his influence was increased by his teaching at Cambridge, where he trained the bulk of the succeeding generation of economists. This influence helps to explain why Marshallian methods of reasoning and concepts such as elasticity of demand and substitution are to be found in the works of present-day economists.



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