Great Economists Since Petty and Boisguilbert
Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz
Chapter 45: Philip Henry Wicksteed (1844–1927)
Philip Henry Wicksteed (1844–1927) was an English economist who was also a Unitarian theologian (succeeding James Martineau at the Little Portland Street Chapel in London in 1874, and resigning in 1897), translator and classicist (with a particular interest in Dante) and literary critic: Wicksteed’s life is described by Herford (1931). Turning to economics after reading Henry George’s (1879) Progress and Poverty, for many years he gave University of London Extension Lectures on economics (as part of an adult education programme). Robbins (1933: v) makes the point that “there can be few men who have so successfully combined such a wide range of intellectual pursuits with such conspicuous excellence in each of them”. The greatest influence on his economics was Jevons’s Theory of Political Economy, and he can be described, with Edgeworth, as a disciple of Jevons and a careful exponent of the subjectivist approach in which cost is interpreted in terms of foregone alternatives rather than as a “real cost”. Robbins (1931: 229) describes how Wicksteed’s copy of the second edition of Jevons’s Theory, purchased in 1882, is covered with marginal annotations. Wicksteed’s first publication in economics was his 1884 criticism of Marx, the first along Jevonian lines by a British economist, and which led to a debate with George Bernard Shaw. He published his first economics book, The Alphabet of Economic Science in 1888. This is primarily a pedagogic work expounding the utility theory of value, with a long introductory section on basic calculus. In this, he is...
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