Lionel Charles Robbins
Robbins, Lionel Charles
Born Nov. 22, 1898 British economist.
Robbins received his education at the University of London and the London School of Economics. From 1924 to 1929, Robbins was a lecturer at a number of British higher educational institutions. Between 1929 and 1961 he was a professor of economics at the University of London. Robbins has also held prominent positions in the government.
In the 1930’s, while a member of a governmental commission set up to study Great Britain’s economic situation, Robbins opposed, from the standpoint of economic liberalism, the Keynesian program of increased government intervention in the economic life of the capitalist countries. His theoretical views were formed under the strong influence of the Austrian school, to which he was closer than to the “English tradition” of A. Marshall and Marshall’s followers. Robbins developed a subjectivist treatment of political economy bordering on extreme formalism. He viewed economic theory devoid of concrete social content as one of the divisions of a universal science of rational activity, a science “which studies human behavior as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses” (An Essay on the Nature and Significance of Economic Science, London, 1946, p. 16).
In the 1930’s, Robbins advocated an oversimplified theory of crises, which reduced the fundamental cause of crises to a shortage of savings. After World War II he recognized the usefulness of the exercise by the bourgeois state of a certain influence on the economy for the purpose of supporting the market mechanism. In Robbins’ view, the market mechanism should retain the functions of the basic regulator of capitalist economic activity. Having concluded that the conceptions of economic cycles and crises he had previously advanced were untenable, he reevaluated the role of Keynesianism and thereby provoked sharp criticism from the adherents of traditional economic liberalism.
WORKSThe Great Depression. London, 1934.
Economic Planning and International Order. London, 1937.
The Theory of Economic Policy in English Classical Political Economy. London, 1961.
Politics and Economics. London, 1963.
The Evolution of Modern Economic Theory and Other Papers on the History of Economic Thought. London, 1970.
L. G. SUPERFIN