Tiziano Raffaelli, Giacomo Becattini and Marco Dardi (Eds). the Elgar Companion to Alfred Marshall

By Donoghue, Mark | History of Economics Review, Summer 2007 | Go to article overview

Tiziano Raffaelli, Giacomo Becattini and Marco Dardi (Eds). the Elgar Companion to Alfred Marshall


Donoghue, Mark, History of Economics Review


Tiziano Raffaelli, Giacomo Becattini and Marco Dardi (eds). The Elgar Companion to Alfred Marshall. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. 2006. Pp. xxv + 727. ISBN-13:978 1 84376 072 6. 175 [pounds sterling].

The Elgar Companion to Alfred Marshall, edited by three leading Marshall scholars, is a new and original reference collection that provides not only a timely snapshot of the current state of understanding of Marshall's life and work, but, more importantly, highlights the contemporary relevance of his scientific enterprise. The compilation also evaluates groundbreaking research programmes inspired by Marshall's broader social science project. The ninety-nine contributions by leading Marshall experts have conveniently been divided into eight sections: Life and Work, Background and Influences, Scope and Method, Economic Analysis (by far the longest section), Social and Political Issues, Marshall and his Contemporaries, Marshall's Legacy and, finally, Marshall and Present-Day Economics. The editors are here to be applauded for coping so admirably with the challenge of creating a coherent contemporary collection out of such a broad range of topics. The volume is accompanied by a very useful editorial introduction that weaves together the various strands of Marshall's economic enterprise. The inclusion of separate name and subject indexes is also a welcome addition.

In addition to its many literary and scholarly virtues, this collection helps to dispel the view that there exists a neat and tidy orthodoxy in relation to Marshall studies. Indeed, the editors have asked contributors to adopt a broader perspective beyond the boundaries of 'explicitly Marshallian themes'. As the editorial introduction further points out: 'if our only motivation in designing this volume had been that of providing a new collective assessment of an important character in the history of economic thought, the whole enterprise would remain confined within an entirely backward-looking perspective, having only scant connections with research presently carried out and with current world problems' (p. xvi). As a result, several new directions in Marshallian studies have been chiselled open, which act as a prelude to a deeper, although by no means complete, appreciation of Marshall's wider social science project. It is clearly beyond the scope of the present review to describe the entire work in detail. It might be of more use, therefore, to delineate certain aspects of the numerous fruitful lines of inquiry being pursued in Marshallian studies in this comprehensive and impressive compendium.

Parts I and II, covering Marshall's life and work in broad outline, present material which will be familiar to those acquainted with Peter Groenewegen's Marshall biography and John Whitaker's three-volume Correspondence of Alfred Marshall. Here both authors have contributed several erudite entries covering the foundations. Other contributions, however, explore new terrain. The chapter by Brian Loasby on Marshall's early philosophical notes, and several elegantly written pieces by Simon Cook on Marshall's early historical work and intellectual influences deserve especial praise. Taken together, these shed fresh light on neglected aspects of the development of Marshall's unique brand of economic thought. Attention should be drawn in particular to the pivotal influence of Alexander Bain, Charles Babbage, Herbert Spencer and Georg Hegel (four unlikely accomplices tightly entwined within the web of Marshall's broader social science enterprise), the originality of Marshall's philosophical musings and the relationship between his mental philosophy and economic thought.

Marshall found new and compelling ideas in the philosophy and scientific discoveries of his day. Current research into his philosophical and psychological writings constitutes one of the most promising areas in Marshallian studies. His 'philosophical apprenticeship' was itself initially associated with loss of religious faith.

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