Menger, Anton (1841–1906)
Anton Menger, brother of the economist Carl, was a jurist and a socialist. Born in Maniow in Galicia on 21 September 1841, he died in Rome on 6 February 1906. After practising as a lawyer for some years, he became, in 1874, Professor of the Law of Civil Procedure at the University of Vienna, a post he was to hold until 1899. From 1886 onward he concentrated on an analysis of the legal aspects of socialism. In 1886 he published a study reconstructing the history of the claim of the worker to the whole produce of his labour. Though conducted explicitly from a legal standpoint, Menger’s reconstruction – and, in particular, his rediscovery of English writers such as W. Godwin, C. Hall and W. Thompson, later to be described as (or associated with) ‘Ricardian Socialists’ – also attracted the interest of economists. This monograph was to prove highly influential both in German-speaking countries and beyond: in 1899 it was translated and published in England (with an introduction and bibliography by H.S. Foxwell) and in France (with an introduction by C. Andler). A strong opponent of Marxism, Menger’s aim in his historical reconstruction was threefold. First and foremost, he asserted that ‘the jurisprudential element’ was, in fact, ‘the real kernel of Socialism, in spite of the economic garb of which the modern socialists, more especially in Germany (Rodbertus, Marx, Lassalle) make so much’ (English translation, p. 39). This underestimation of the economic element drew criticism from V. Pareto (1902–3, vol. 2, p. 86), amongst others. Menger also maintained that at the basis of socialist claims stood three ‘economic rights’: the right of the whole produce of one’s labour, the right to subsistence, and the right to work. He held that the first of these was (or might be) incompatible with the second, and expressed his preference for the fulfilment of the right to subsistence by means of a system of public welfare. Foxwell, however, considers that ‘the more novel side’ and ‘perhaps the occasion’ of Menger’s monograph lies in his determination to prove that Rodbertus and Marx ‘borrowed their most important theories without any acknowledgement from many English and French theorists’ (A. Menger, 1899, pp. xxv and cxv). In Menger’s opinion, the author from whose writings Marx had ‘borrowed’ most freely was W. Thompson (Foxwell cites, in this context, J.F. Bray, while Andler cites Sismondi). Schumpeter observes that ‘it is significant that this charge of plagiarism, though often repeated by economists was in the first instance raised by a writer who was not an economist himself’ (Schumpeter 1954, p. 480). It may be added that the emphasis given by the jurist Menger to the problem of ‘rights’ probably contributed to the tendency of associating Ricardian socialists exclusively with this question, overshadowing in this way all those aspects of their thought which lie beyond it.
- Andler, C. 1899. Introduction to A. Menger, Le droit au produit intégral du travail. Paris.Google Scholar
- Foxwell, H.S. 1899. Introduction to A. Menger. The right to the whole produce of labour. London. Reprinted, New York: Kelley, 1962.Google Scholar
- Pareto, V. 1902–3. Les systèmes socialistes. In Oeuvres Complètes, vol. V, ed. G. Busino. Geneva: Librairie Droz, 1965.Google Scholar
- Schumpeter, J.A. 1954. History of economic analysis. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar