The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Economics, Definition of

  • Roger E. Backhouse
  • Steven Medema
Reference work entry


Economics is difficult to define unambiguously, many definitions having been proposed as the subject has evolved. Definitions are ex post constructions, even rationalizations, but they can nonetheless influence what economist do and how they set about doing it. This article considers the main definitions from the late 18th century to the present, pointing out some of the ways in which changing views reflect and have influenced changes in the subject.


Cameralism Economic science Economics imperialism Economics, definition of Institutional design Marshall, As Mill, J. S Operations research Political economy Rational choice Robbins, L. C Samuelson, P. A Scarcity Steuart, Sir J Value judgements 

JEL Classifications

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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roger E. Backhouse
    • 1
  • Steven Medema
  1. 1.