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Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

1. Introduction

Abstract
Keynes said that Marshall was ‘too anxious to do good’.1 It is never very easy to say precisely how much good each of us ought to be anxious to do, and one also suspects that it is on balance better to be too anxious to do good than not anxious enough; but the point remains that Marshall was an earnest, conscientious and purposive social philosopher who regarded economic science as never more than the ‘servant’ of that ‘mistress’ which must be ethics.2 As Jacob Viner puts it: ‘There have been few of us who have made conscience be our guide as to subjects of investigation and methods of analysis as steadily and as consistently as did Marshall.’3 Of course Marshall was the master-maker of tools, whose Principles of Economics are to this day, to a greater extent than is true of the insights of any other single theoretician of the past, the foundations of our own. Yet no one understands Marshall who understands only consumer’s surplus and elasticity of demand, diminishing marginal utility and increasing real cost, the normal value and the equilibrium price, or who loses sight even for a moment of what Keynes so accurately diagnosed as ‘the conflict … between an intellect, which was hard, dry, critical, as unsentimental as you could find … [and] emotions and aspirations, generally unspoken, of quite a different type.
David Reisman

2. Childhood and Cambridge

Abstract
Alfred Marshall was born at Clapham on 26 July 1842. His father was a cashier in the Bank of England, with the result that Alfred enjoyed a City connection and an exposure to monetary economics at an early age. William Marshall was also somewhat of a despot in his own home (Alfred’s writings abound in weasel-words such as ‘nearly’, ‘generally’, ‘probably’, ‘perhaps’, ‘on the whole’; his economics is noteworthy for its qualifications and assumptions; and a psychological explanation for such evasiveness might be the subconscious desire of the oversensitive spirit to avoid confrontation) and a strict Evangelical Christian (a man who, destining his son for a career in the ministry, compelled him to study useful subjects such as Hebrew — often, as was the case with Mill, late into the night — and forbade Alfred not only the self-indulgence of board games but ‘the fascinating paths of mathematics’ as well: ‘His father hated the sight of a mathematical book.’).1 It must have required a great deal of courage for Alfred, at the end of his secondary education at the Merchant Taylors’ School (where he was ‘small and pale, badly dressed, looked overworked and was called “tallow candles” by his fellows’)2 to turn down a classics scholarship to St John’s College, Oxford, in order to study mathematics (supported by a loan from an uncle) at St John’s College, Cambridge.
David Reisman

3. Cambridge and Bristol

Abstract
In 1877 Alfred Marshall married Mary Paley (1850–1944), a former student who had taken over from him the task of lecturing in political economy to the twenty women students at the Old Hall, Newnham. In her case it appears to have been an attack of love at first sight: ‘I then thought I had never seen such an attractive face with its delicate outline and brilliant eyes.’1 What he felt is less well documented but, since marriage meant the loss of his Fellowship, one must assume that he knew what he was doing. They remained happily married for 47 years; and in that time, in Keynes’s words, ‘his dependence upon her devotion was complete. Her life was given to him and to his work with a degree of unselfishness and understanding that makes it difficult for friends and old pupils to think of them separately or to withhold from her shining gifts of character a big share in what his intellect accomplished.’2 They had no children.
David Reisman

4. Oxford and Cambridge

Abstract
Marshall returned to Bristol in 1882. It was, coincidentally, the very year in which Jevons was drowned while only in his forty-seventh summer. His premature death means that there is loss as well as hope to be detected in Foxwell’s declaration to Walras in the last week of that year, that ‘the ablest of our living Economists is Professor Alfred Marshall, University College, Bristol’.1 Foxwell in 1884 once again expressed his admiration for ‘Mr. Alfred Marshall, beyond doubt the most competent of living writers to judge of the value of Mr. Jevons’ work on all its sides’;2 while in 1887, speaking of the rising standard of economic instruction in England in the sixteen years that had elapsed since the Theory of Political Economy, he said that ‘among living writers there is no one who has done so much to bring about this advance as Professor Alfred Marshall’.3 There is loss as well as hope to be detected in Foxwell’s repeated use of the word ‘living’. Things might have been different had Jevons lived. As it was, however, the loss of Jevons inevitably consolidated the hope that was associated with Marshall. Foxwell saw clearly what Marshall was worth. So did Jowett.
David Reisman

5. Economics and Principles

Abstract
Marshall arrived at Cambridge at a time of some crisis in the discipline. The Times, on 30 May 1885, was doing no more than stating the obvious when it commented as follows on his Inaugural Lecture, ‘The Present Position of Economics’: ‘Political Economy is on its trial. It is not merely its relation to other branches of science which is under dispute. Its worth, its substance, its vitality are all denied.’1 Less than a decade had passed since Francis Galton (founder of eugenics and for five years General Secretary of the British Association) had, in 1877, laid before the Council of the BA a paper proposing the abolition of Section F on the grounds that the discipline was simply not capable of prosecuting its inquiries in a scientific spirit: ‘The general verdict of scientific men would be that few of the subjects treated fall within the meaning of the word “scientific”.’2 The status of economics was hardly improved by John Kells Ingram’s impassioned reply, in his Presidential Address to the Dublin Meeting of the following year, that economics was in fact the science that ‘has the most momentous influence of all on human welfare’,3 but admittedly not the narrow and abstract economics of Senior and Ricardo such as had caused sceptical public opinion quite rightly to regard the study of wealth and exchange with ‘uneasy distrust’4 and had brought upon the Section the justified contempt of Galton and other pure scientists whom the proper methodology of Comtean sociology would easily have been able to satisfy: ‘If the proper study of mankind is man, the work of the Association, after the extrusion of our Section, would be like the play with the part of the protagonist left out.
David Reisman

6. The Evolution of the Principles

Abstract
Marshall began seriously to study economic theory in 1867 (when he was 23) and turned, naturally, to the as-yet-unchallenged classics of Smith, Ricardo and, of course, John Stuart Mill. As he later recollected:
I read Mill’s Political Economy in 1866 or ’7, while I was teaching advanced mathematics; and, as I thought much more easily in mathematics at that time than in English, I tried to translate him into mathematics before forming an opinion as to the validity of his work. I found much amiss in his analysis, and especially in two matters. He did not seem to have assimilated the notion of gradual growth by imperceptible increments; and he did not seem to have a sufficient responsibility…. for keeping the number of his equations equal to the number of his variables, neither more nor less.1
David Reisman

7. Beyond the Principles

Abstract
In 1892 Marshall, ever the educator, published another book, the Elements of Economics of Industry. In a letter dated 2 May 1910 to a Japanese correspondent, he said it was ‘made rapidly chiefly by scissors and paste out of my Principles’,1 and elsewhere he characterised it as an attempt to abridge the longer book in such a way as to adapt it ‘to the needs of junior students’.2 A new chapter on trades unions was provided but otherwise the nature of the simplification was excision, Marshall taking the view that ‘the difficulty of an argument would be increased rather than diminished by curtailing it and leaving out some of its steps.’3 The title was poorly chosen as it positively invites confusion with the very different book that is the Economics of Industry of 1879 (a confusion that much more likely by virtue of the fact that both books carry the same title — Economics of Industry — on their spines). Regardless of the title, the popularisation was a commercial success, running to three further editions (1896, 1899, 1913) and selling a total of 81 000 copies in all: degrees were being started in the burgeoning discipline, educated laymen were less and less regarding industry and trade as unacademic and dismal, and the time was clearly right not merely for the Principles but for an introduction to the Principles as well.
David Reisman

8. Conclusion

Abstract
Alfred Marshall was anxious to do good. He was also anxious to do good quite specifically through economics. Green and Jowett, Carlyle and Ruskin, looked over his shoulder even as he formalised the concepts of elasticity and quasi-rent; Toynbee Hall and the University Extension Movement, the Charity Organisation Societies and the union provident funds, put him on the alert even as he theorised about monopoly prices and equilibrium states; Darwin the evolutionist and Spencer the improver, Foxwell the Methodist and Ashley the Churchman, stared meaningfully back at him from the mirror even as he translated marginal utility and economies of size into the terse language of the differential calculus; and the result is a distinctive whole qualitatively different from the sum of the parts, an intellectual organism that is not the simple aggregate of its discrete cells. The mix is quite unlike anything that had been seen before or has been encountered since. It is in that mix that Alfred Marshall’s mission is most clearly to be found.
David Reisman

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