Clark, John Bates

Clark, John Bates,

1847–1938, American economist, b. Providence, R.I. He studied economics in the U.S. and Germany, and taught at Columbia Univ. and several other colleges in the United States. In 1885 he helped found the American Economic Association, serving as its president (1893–95). Clark's best-known work, The Distribution of Wealth (1899), outlined his theory of marginal productivity, based on an ideal of competitive equilibrium without dynamic change. By the breadth of his work and contributions to economics, Clark became the first American economist to achieve international distinction.
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Clark, John Bates


Born Jan. 26, 1847, in Providence, R.I.; died Mar. 21, 1938, in New York. American economist; founder of the theory of marginal productivity, one of the main dogmas of bourgeois political economy.

Clark graduated from Amherst College (USA) in 1872 and continued his studies at the University of Heidelberg and the University of Zürich. Beginning in 1877 he served as a professor of economics at a number of American colleges, including Columbia University from 1895 to 1923. He was the president of the American Economic Association from 1893 to 1895. According to his theory of marginal productivity, the process of production is characterized by the diminishing productivity of labor and capital. Using this phenomenon of diminishing productivity, Clark formulated what is known as Clark’s law: the value (cost) of a product is determined by the sum of the marginal utilities of its qualities. In Clark’s opinion, labor and capital are equally important factors in the formation of the value of a product. The capitalist’s claim to profit is based on this logic.

Clark asserted that the distribution of social product is carried out in proportion to the contribution of each of the factors of production (labor, capital, land) to the national income. In this way he tried to prove that in capitalist society a harmony of interests reigns. Clark explained the low level of workers’ pay by the excessively rapid growth of their population. In the early 20th century, Clark defended trusts, maintaining that they are not in fact monopolies because they do not exercise complete control over the market. Clark’s apologetic theory is used by contemporary bourgeois economists.


The Philosophy of Wealth. Boston, 1886.
Capital and Its Earnings. Baltimore, 1888.
The Control of Trusts. New York-London, 1901.
The Problem of Monopoly. New York-London, 1904.
Essentials of Economic Theory. New York, 1907.
The Distribution of Wealth. New York-London, 1908. In Russian translation, Raspredelenie bogatstva. Moscow-Leningrad, 1934.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Clark, John Bates

(1847–1938) economist; born in Providence, R.I. He pioneered the marginal productivity theory and engaged in a lifelong debate with the Austrian economist Bohm-Bawerk regarding the fixed status of capital funds. He taught at Smith College (1881–93) and Johns Hopkins (1893–95) before moving to Columbia University, where he remained until his retirement in 1923.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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