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Cover of On the Origins of Classical Economics

On the Origins of Classical Economics Distribution and Value from William Petty to Adam Smith

  • Published: 1996
  • DOI: 10.4324/9780203434222
  • Print ISBN: 9780415128780
  • eBook ISBN: 9780203434222

Where and how did classical economics originate?

It is often assumed that modern economics began with Adam Smith and the publication of The Wealth of Nations. Here, Tony Aspromourgos takes issue with this assumption and shows that the origins of classical economic theory have much deeper roots. The book:

  • deals with the origin and early development of the classical theory of distribution up to 1767;

  • stresses the concept of economic ‘surplus’ as a key determinant of economic phenomena, especially income distribution and commodity exchange rates;

  • finds the source of this concept in the work of Sir William Petty and shows the transmission of ideas from Petty to the Classical School through such writers as Cantillon, Quesnay and Steuart;

  • relates the formative history to mature classical economics and modern developments, with particular reference to Keynes and Sraffa, thus showing how the classical tradition presents a viable alternative to the modern marginalist approach.

The work is designed to meet the need for an understanding of the central elements of the early history of the classical tradition. In so doing, it presents a thorough examination of Petty’s economics and his influence on later economic thought.


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    Front Matter
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    The Life of Petty in Relation to His Economics
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    Economic Surplus and the Social Division of Labour: The Economics of Petty
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    Methodological and Political Bases of Petty’s Economics
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    The Theory of Production and Distribution in Cantillon’s Essai
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    The Significance of Value Parity in Petty and Cantillon
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    Petty–Cantillon–Quesnay: The Formation of the Surplus Approach
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    Wages, Prices and Economic Surplus in Steuart’s Principles
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    Developments In the Theory of Distribution and Value, 1662–1767
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    Adam Smith and After
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    Back Matter