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Guide to the Study of Political Economy

Nature volume 23, pages 9798 | Download Citation



THE translator of Prof. Cossa's “Guide” has conferred a great boon upon the English student of political economy. The present condition of economic science generally, and especially in this country, cannot be regarded as satisfactory. The doctrines once regarded as firmly established, and the limits of discussion apparently viewed as fixed by the nature of the facts, have been subjected to criticism from the most varied grounds, and the process of disintegration, not yet completed, has not led to any general agreement with respect to the scope and principles of the science. The system of political economy, which with some justice we designate as the English, has been revised or attacked on two grounds mainly. In the first place, the fundamental notions upon which it proceeded have been criticised as too narrow and limited, as referring solely to one economic condition and as leading to results of an abstract and isolated character. The “Economic Studies” of the late Mr. Bagehot represent fairly this phase of opinion, while the excellent little compendium by Prof, and Mrs. Marshall, the “Economics of Industry,” is a specimen of the mode in which the older theorems require to be restated in the light of more general principles. In the second place, the great advance in what we may call social science, and the application of the historic method to the study of the various orders of social facts, have led, on the part of many modern writers, to an almost total rejection of the whole system of doctrines grouped together under the title of Political Economy. The fundamental principles, the methods of reasoning from them, and the conclusions arrived at, have all been questioned, while a perfectly chaotic state of opinion appears to exist regarding the nature and method of that which is to take the place of the formerly accepted doctrine.

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