Defining Economics: The Long Road to Acceptance of the Robbins Definition

Roger Backhouse, SG Medema

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

45 Citations (Scopus)


Robbins' Essay gave economics a definition that came to dominate the professional literature. This definition laid a foundation that could be seen as justifying both the narrowing of economic theory to the theory of constrained maximization or rational choice and economists' Ventures into other social science fields. Though often presented as self-evidently correct, both the definition itself and the developments that it has been used to support were keenly contested. This paper traces the reception, diffusion and contesting of the Robbins definition, arguing that this process took around three decades and that even then there was still significant dissent.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)805-820
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2009


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