The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Machinery Question

  • Salim Rashid
Reference work entry


That machinery is of benefit to the manufacturer who introduces it has never been a point of discussion in the history of economics and the machinery question is solely a dispute over whether society benefits from the introduction of machinery, the most pressing social issue being the displacement of labour by machinery and the consequent threat of widespread unemployment. In general terms, the social benefits of machinery were well appreciated by the middle of the 18th century. However, the greatly increased use of machinery at the end of the 18th century gave a new intensity to the debate at the beginning of the 19th century. The analytical tools used by classical economists to tackle this general equilibrium problem were however quite inadequate and it is doubtful whether a deeper understanding of the issue was achieved by the heroic abstractions of the 19th century.


Circulating and fixed capital Fixed capital Machinery question Mill, J.S. Ricardo, D. Say’s Law Stewart, D. Tozer, J.E. Tucker, J. Wages fund Wicksell, J.G.K 

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Salim Rashid
    • 1
  1. 1.