Concept And Meaning Of Economics
Economics is a social science which studies and explains human behavior. But economics is a new social science as compared to other social sciences. Before 18th century economics was treated as part of Political Science, Ethics and Religion. The 18th century classical economists developed it as a separate social science. Economics is a science in the sense that the economists aim to develop theories of human behavior and to test them against the facts.
It is customary to begin elementary economic theory with a definition of economics. Nothing, however, is settled by definition. A wide subject like economics cannot be restricted to a boundary fixed by definition. Economics extends to the subjects covered and methods used by the economists. Similarly, it also suggests that boundary of economics changes as the range of subject covered by economists changes.
Definitions Of Economics
The economic science has been differently defined by different economists. Each definitions lays stress on particular aspect of economic activities. The definitions of economics can be classified into three parts for convenience. They are wealth definition, welfare definition and scarcity definition of economics.
1. Wealth Definition Of Economics (Adam Smith)
The earliest definitions of economics were in terms of wealth. In 1776, Adam Smith, the father of economics and leader of classical economist published his epoch-making book " An enquiry into the Nature and Causes of Wealth of Nations", popularly known as wealth of nations. It is obvious that Adam Smith considered his work to be an enquiry into the nature and causes of wealth of nations.In other words, he treated economics as a science of wealth. His followers like J.B Say. J.S Mill and F.A Walker supported him. J.S Mill defined economics as- " The practical science of the production and distribution of wealth". J.B Say called economics- " The science which treats of wealth". Walker defined it as- " That body of knowledge which relates to wealth".
Adam Smith was concerned with the broader aspects of wealth, the means by which the total volume of production could be increased. This has been a recent aim of economic policy. J.S Mill's definition is wider in the sense that he included problems of both production and distribution. These two factors influence the standard of living of people.
Adam Smith and his followers treated economics as a science of wealth. The term wealth was interpreted in a very normal sense to mean abundance money. It implies that the economists are expected to suggest ways and means of increasing the wealth of a country.
2.Welfare Definition Of Economics ( A. Marshall)
Alfred Marshall, a neo-classical economist, is the leader of welfare definition of economics. A.C Pigou and Edwin Cannan supported his view,The emphasis shifted from wealth to material welfare. It is because wealth is only a means to and end, end being human welfare. As opined by Marshall- " Economics is, on one side, a study of wealth; and on the other and more important side, a part of the study of man".
Marshall defined economics in these words- " Economics is a study of mankind in the ordinary business of life; it explains that part of individual and social action which is most closely connected with the attainment and with the use of the material requisites of well-being".
3.Scarcity Definition Of Economics (L. Robbins)
Lionel Robbins gave his own definition of economics in his book " Nature and Significance of Economics" published in 1932. His definition was supported by a long line of economists like Samuelson, Oskar Lange, Stigler, A,p Lerner, Cairncross and so on.
According to Robbins -" Economics is the science which studies human behavior as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses".
Supporting Robbins, Oskar Lange defined economics as" The science of administration of scares resources in human society".
The basic propositions of Robbins definition are as follows:
* Wants or ends are unlimited
* Means are scarce
* Scarce means have alternative uses
* The ends are of varying importance.