What is Economics :: Rosa Luxembourg

Posted on August 1, 2018

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Economics is a peculiar science. Problems and controversies arise as soon as we take the first step in this field of knowledge, as soon as the fundamental question – what is the subject matter of this science – is posed. The ordinary working man, who has only a very vague idea of what economics deals with, will attribute his haziness on this particular point to a shortcoming in his general education. Yet, in a certain sense, he shares his perplexity with many learned scholars and professors who write multivolumed works dealing with the subject of economics and who teach courses in economics to college students. It appears incredible, and yet it is true, that most professors of economics have a very nebulous idea of the actual subject matter of their erudition.

Since it is common usage among these professors adorned with academic titles and honors to operate with definitions, that is, to try to exhaust the essence of the most complex phenomena in a few neatly arranged sentences, let us experiment for a moment and attempt to learn from a representative of official bourgeois economics what essential topics this science deals with. Let us consult first of all the head of the German professorial world, the author of an immense number of frightfully huge textbooks dealing with economics, the founder of the so-called historical school of economics, Wilhelm Roscher. In his first big work, entitled The Principles of Political Economy, a Handbook and Textbook for Businessmen and Students, which was first published in 1854 but which has run through twenty-three editions since then, we read as follows, in chapter 2, section 16:
By the science of national, or political economy, we understand the science which has to do with the laws of development of the economy of a nation, or with its economic national life (philosophy of the history of political economy, according to von Mangoldt). Like all the political sciences, or sciences of national life, it is connected, on the one hand, with the consideration of the individual man, and on the other, it extends its investigation to the whole of human kind” (p. 87).

Full text taken from the book Rosa Luxembourg Speaks, can be downloaded from here

Thanks to the site Socialist Economics for providing the scanned copy

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