Explain the Robbins Definition of Economics

Explain the Robbins Definition of Economics


CRM Software : Explain the Robbins Definition of Economics – Economics is a complex field that seeks to understand how individuals, societies, and nations allocate scarce resources to satisfy their unlimited wants and needs.

Over time, numerous economists have put forth their definitions of economics, each capturing different aspects of the subject.

In this article, we will explore the definition of economics proposed by Lionel Robbins, a prominent British economist, and the criticisms associated with his definition.

Explain the Robbins Definition of Economics

Economics, as a discipline, aims to analyze and comprehend the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. It delves into the behavior of individuals, businesses, and governments, examining how their decisions and actions impact the allocation of resources. To comprehend the intricacies of economics, it is crucial to explore various definitions offered by economists throughout history.

The Definition of Economics

Before delving into Lionel Robbins’ definition, it is important to understand the broader context of economics. Traditionally, economics was seen as the study of wealth creation and the management of scarce resources. However, as the field evolved, economists realized that wealth alone cannot fully encompass the complexities of economic activities.

Robbins’ Definition of Economics

Lionel Robbins, in his book “An Essay on the Nature and Significance of Economic Science” (1932), proposed a definition that focused on the concept of scarcity and choice. According to Robbins, economics is “the science which studies human behavior as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses.”

Scarcity and Choice

Robbins emphasized the fundamental role of scarcity and choice in economic decision-making. Scarcity refers to the limited availability of resources, such as time, money, labor, and natural resources, relative to the unlimited human wants and needs. Choices arise from the necessity to allocate these scarce resources efficiently, considering alternative uses and competing demands.

Human Wants

Robbins recognized that human wants and needs are infinite, covering a wide range of desires, both material and non-material. Economics attempts to analyze and understand how these wants are prioritized and satisfied in the face of limited resources.

Means and Ends

In his definition, Robbins highlighted the concept of means and ends. Means refer to the resources and tools utilized to achieve desired ends or objectives. Economics examines the utilization and allocation of these means to satisfy human wants efficiently.

Economic Problems

Robbins believed that economics is concerned with the study of economic problems and their resolutions. These problems arise due to scarcity, the necessity for choice, and the existence of competing wants and needs.

Criticisms of Robbins’ Definition

While Robbins’ definition of economics has been influential, it has also faced criticisms from various economists. Let’s explore some of the common criticisms associated with his definition:

Narrow Focus

Critics argue that Robbins’ definition narrows the scope of economics by focusing solely on the allocation of scarce resources. They believe that economics should encompass a broader examination of social welfare, income distribution, and other factors that influence economic well-being.

Ignoring Distribution

Another criticism is that Robbins’ definition overlooks the significance of income distribution in economic analysis. Economics is not only concerned with how resources are allocated but also with how the benefits and costs of economic activities are distributed among individuals and groups in society.

Lack of Value Judgment

Robbins’ definition is often criticized for its neutrality and lack of value judgment. Some argue that economics should incorporate ethical considerations and address questions of fairness, justice, and sustainability in addition to studying resource allocation.


In conclusion, Lionel Robbins’ definition of economics emphasizes the relationship between scarcity, choice, and human behavior in the allocation of scarce resources. While his definition has played a crucial role in shaping economic thought, it has faced criticism for its narrow focus, exclusion of income distribution, and lack of value judgment. Economics continues to evolve, incorporating diverse perspectives to better understand and address the complex challenges of our global society.


  1. Q: Is Lionel Robbins the only economist who defined economics? A: No, there have been numerous economists who have proposed their definitions of economics.
  2. Q: Why is scarcity important in economics? A: Scarcity is vital in economics because it necessitates choices and resource allocation.
  3. Q: Does economics only focus on material wants and needs? A: No, economics examines both material and non-material wants and needs.
  4. Q: What are some other criticisms of Robbins’ definition? A: Some other criticisms include its disregard for social welfare and its lack of ethical considerations.
  5. Q: How does economics contribute to societal well-being? A: Economics contributes to societal well-being by studying resource allocation, income distribution, and economic problem-solving.

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