Some Legacies of Robbins' An Essay on the Nature and Significance of Economic Science



This paper criticizes three Robbinsian positions still often found in modern economics: (1) the methodology of intuitively obvious assumptions; (2) treating facts as illustrations rather than as tests of theoretical propositions; (3) assuming that theory provides universally applicable generalizations independent of the characteristics of individual economies and so are independent of specific historical processes. Two corollaries of point (3) are that theory cannot assist in explaining unique historical events such as the emergence of sustained growth in the West and that economists need not interest themselves in the details of the technologies that produce the nation's wealth.