Handbook on the History of Economic Analysis Volume I
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Handbook on the History of Economic Analysis Volume I

Great Economists Since Petty and Boisguilbert

Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz

Volume I contains original biographical profiles of many of the most important and influential economists from the seventeenth century to the present day. These inform the reader about their lives, works and impact on the further development of the discipline. The emphasis is on their lasting contributions to our understanding of the complex system known as the economy. The entries also shed light on the means and ways in which the functioning of this system can be improved and its dysfunction reduced. Each Handbook can be read individually and acts as a self-contained volume in its own right. It can be purchased separately or as part of a three-volume set.
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Chapter 55: John Atkinson Hobson (1858–1940)

Michael Schneider


Aptly self-described in his later years as an economic heretic, John Atkinson Hobson (1858–1940) made two substantial contributions to economic analysis, one major and one relatively minor. His major contribution was to revive interest in the underconsumption theory. His relatively minor contribution was as a critic of the marginal productivity theory of distribution. These contributions were initially unrelated, though later the distribution of income came to play an important part in Hobson’s exposition of the underconsumption theory. Hobson was “born – on 6 July 1858 – and bred in the middle of the middle class of a middle-sized Midland industrial town” (Hobson 1931: 13), to wit, Derby, where his father was the founder, joint proprietor and editor of The Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal. After proceeding to an open scholarship at Lincoln College, Oxford, and graduating in 1880, he was employed by schools in Faversham and Exeter, where he taught classics for seven years; during that time, in 1885, he married Florence Edgar, who hailed from New Jersey. In 1887 he abandoned school teaching in order to take up journalism, moving for that reason to West London. After this move he became a university extension lecturer, offering a course in political economy from 1888, and was thereafter a prolific writer on matters economic and societal. The best account of his life is to be found in Lee (1972). Hobson’s first contribution to economic analysis came with the publication in 1889 of The Physiology of Industry, of which the businessman A.F. Mummery (who...

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