A New View on Robbins’s Definition of Economics: the Notions of Real and Formal Scarcity

A New View on Robbins’s Definition of Economics: the Notions of Real and Formal Scarcity

  • Ignacio Falgueras-Sorauren ,

Abstract

This article analyses Robbins’s famous definition of economics. It shows that this definition was introduced by the author to solve long-standing problems regarding the subjectmatter of the science that were associated with some of the existing definitions. The article
also draws attention to some confusion that surrounds the way Robbins understood the (new) subject-matter and which also slid into his definition. To escape the ambiguities caused by Robbins’s confusion, we propose a more precise way of understanding the subject-matter of economics. The insight gained reveals that Robbins’s definition really contains two sub-definitions: one that describes the subject-matter (real scarcity) and another that describes the method of the science (formal scarcity). This finding sheds light on some analyses and interpretations of this definition in the literature.

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