The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Changes in Tastes

  • M. S. McPherson
Reference work entry


It is often analytically convenient to abstract from the phenomenon of changing tastes in explaining or evaluating economic phenomena. Alfred Marshall for example defended the assumption of given wants as a useful, if crude, starting point in developing utility theory. Since the 1930s, however, the assumption of given wants has hardened increasingly into dogma. A notable step in that direction was taken in 1932, when Lionel Robbins gave wide currency to the definition of economics as the study of the relations between ends and means, the ends taken as given (Robbins 1932, Chapter 2).

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. S. McPherson
    • 1
  1. 1.