Roscher, Wilhelm George Friedrich

Roscher, Wilhelm George Friedrich


Born Oct. 21, 1817, in Hanover, Germany; died June 4, 1894, in Leipzig. German economist; founder of the historical school of bourgeois political economy.

Roscher became a professor at the University of Göttingen in 1843 and at Leipzig in 1848.

Using the ideas of the reactionary historical school of law as a model, Roscher elaborated the historical, or historico-physio-logical, method in economics. According to the historical method, political economy is a national science, the goals of which are reducible to gathering facts, recording observed economic phenomena and institutions, and explaining them in terms of historical analogies rather than theoretical generalizations. Essentially, this method entailed the historical justification and idealization of the Prussian path of capitalist development and its characteristic feudal vestiges, the remnants of serfdom and restrictions associated with craft guilds and social estates.

In his theoretical constructs Roscher did not go beyond the vulgarizers of the classical school. For example, he reduced value to use value (utility) and regarded capital as any product intended for productive use, even though it is obvious that the means of production can be transformed into capital only when private ownership and commodity production prevail. Roscher used the historical method as the basis for his interpretation of the French economist J. B. Say’s vulgar apologetic theory of the three factors of production, a theory based on the equation of two factors, the labor process and the process of creating value. According to Roscher, profit is the result of the capitalist’s labor, and harmony prevails in the distribution of income, with inequality of incomes serving as a stimulus for economic progress. Roscher’s economic views are criticized in the works of K. Marx and N. G. Chernyshevskii.


Grundriss zu Vorlesungen über die Staatswirtschaft: Nach geschichlicher Methode. Gö ttingen, 1843.
System der Volkswirtschaft, vols. 1–5. Stuttgart, 1854–94.
In Russian translation:
N achala narodnogo khoziaistva, vol. 1. Moscow, 1860–62.
Nauka ν narodnom khoziaistve ν otnoshenii k zemledeliiu i drugim otrasliam pervonachal’noi promyshlennosti, books 1–3. Moscow, 1869–70.


Marx, K. Kapital, vols. 1–3. In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vols. 23–25.
Marx, K. Teorii pribavochnoi stoimosti (vol. 4 of Kapital). Ibid., vol. 26.
Marx, K. Lassaliu, 16 iiunia 1862 g. (Letter.) Ibid., vol. 30.
Chernyshevskii, N. G. “Nachala narodnogo khoziaistva: Rukovodstvo dlia uchashchikhsia i dlia delovykh liudei Vil’gel’ma Roshera.” In his Izbr. ekonomicheskie proizvedeniia, vol. 2. Moscow, 1948.
Istoriia ekonomicheskoi mysli, part 1. Moscow, 1961.

I. T. LASHCHINSKII [22–980–21