Alfred Marshall (born 26 July 1842 in Bermondsey, London, England, died 13 July 1924 in Cambridge, England) was an Englishman and one of the most influential economists of his time. His book, Principles of Economics (1890), was the dominant economic textbook in England for many years. It brings the ideas of supply and demand, marginal utility and costs of production into a coherent whole. He is known as one of the founders of neoclassical economics.
Marshall was born in Clapham, England, July 26, 1842. His father was a bank cashier and a devout Evangelical. Marshall grew up in the London suburb of Clapham and was educated at the Merchant Taylor's School, Northwood and St John's College, Cambridge, where he demonstrated an aptitude in mathematics, achieving the rank of Second Wrangler in the 1865 Cambridge Mathematical Tripos. Marshall experienced a mental crisis that led him to abandon physics and switch to philosophy. He began with metaphysics, specifically "the philosophical foundation of knowledge, especially in relation to theology.". Metaphysics led Marshall to ethics, specifically a Sidgwickian version of utilitarianism; ethics, in turn, led him to economics, because economics played an essential role in providing the preconditions for the improvement of the working class. Even as he turned to economics, his ethical views continued to be a dominant force in his thinking.
Marshall took a broad approach to social science in which economics plays an important but limited role. He recognized that in the real world, economic life is tightly bound up with ethical, social and political currents—currents he felt economists should not ignore. Marshall envisioned dramatic social change involving the elimination of poverty and a sharp reduction of inequality. He saw the duty of economics was to improve material conditions, but such improvement would occur, Marshall believed, only in connection with social and political forces. His interest in liberalism, socialism, trade unions, women's education, poverty and progress reflect the influence of his early social philosophy to his later activities and writings.
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