James Steuart

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Steuart, James


Born Oct. 21, 1712, in Edinburgh; died there Nov. 26, 1780. Scottish economist; one of the last representatives of mercantilism.

Steuart’s principal work, Inquiry Into the Principles of Political Economy (1767), was one of the first attempts at a systematic presentation of political economy. While remaining a mercantilist and considering the current balance of foreign trade the source of social wealth, Steuart did not think that exchange at a profit was the only source of profit. He distinguished between real and relative profit. The former arises from an increase in labor, effort, and skills, while the latter is created by selling commodities at prices above their value. Steuart thus came close to solving the problem of the origin of surplus value but did not explain it scientifically.

K. Marx saw Steuart’s contribution as a correct interpretation of the primitive accumulation of capital and noted that Steuart analyzed “the delineation of the conditions of production as the property of a definite class from the labor power” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 26, part 1, p. 11).

Steuart offered a critique of the quantitative theory of money, but in doing so he advanced the erroneous concept of an ideal monetary unit, confusing the function of money as a measure of the value with the price level and separating ideal money from actual money (gold or silver).


The Works: Political, Metaphysical and Chronological, vols. 1–6. London, 1805.
Marx, K. “K kritike politicheskoi ekonomii.” K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 13. Chapter 2.
Marx, K. “Teorii pribavochnoi stoimosti” (vol. 4 of Kapital). Ibid., vol.26. Parti, ch. 1.


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