The following points highlight the top fourteen contributions of Alfred Marshall to Economics. Some of the contributions are: 1. Definition and Laws of Economics 2. Marshall Method 3. Wants and Their Satisfaction 4. Marshallian Utility and Demand 5. Consumer’s Surplus 6. Elasticity of Demand 7. Supply and Cost 8. Factors of Production and Others.
1. Definition and Laws of Economics:
Marshall defined Economics as, “Political Economy or Economics is a study of mankind in the ordinary business of life; it examines that part of individual and social action which is most closely connected with the attainment and with the use of material requisites of well-being. Thus it is on the one side a study of wealth and on the other and more important side, a part of the study of man.”
According to Marshall, Economics is a study of human beings and not of beasts or animals or plants. It deals with the economic aspect of man and not social or political or religious aspect of his life. It explains their ordinary business of life, which consists of earning and spending money, for the satisfaction of their necessities of life like food, clothing and shelter.
Marshall classified human activities into activities that contribute to material welfare and activities that do not contribute to material welfare. Marshall shifted the emphasis from wealth to man. Wealth is only a means to welfare. Hence he has given primary importance to man and secondary importance to wealth.
Economic laws are the statements of economic tendencies and are hypothetical. Since economic laws deal with man’s actions which are numerous and uncertain, they are to be compared with the laws of tides rather than with the simple and exact law of gravitation.
2. Marshall Method:
As far as the method of study is concerned, Marshall considered both induction and deduction as useful for economics. Both are complementary to each other. He says, “Induction and deduction are both needed for scientific thought as the left and right foot are both needed for walking”.
Marshall was the great interpreter of the method of partial equilibrium. The forces influencing an economic phenomenon are too numerous and it is very difficult to analyse all of them to arrive at a complete explanation of the phenomenon. Therefore, the best method is to keep other forces constant, and study the forces influencing the phenomenon. Thus all the other forces are reduced to inaction by the phrase “other things being equal”.
3. Wants and Their Satisfaction:
Marshall fully analysed the characteristics of wants and distinguished between necessaries, comforts and luxuries. He believed that consumption was the beginning and end of all economic activities and so he discussed consumption first and production afterwards.
4. Marshallian Utility and Demand:
Price of a commodity is determined not by supply alone as the classical economists believed and not by demand alone as the utility theorists believed but by both demand and supply curves. Marshall takes up the theory of demand to analyse consumer behaviour.
A rational consumer aims at maximising satisfaction from his consumption. The amount of satisfaction is closely related to the quantity of that commodity consumed by the consumer. Thus demand is based on the law of diminishing marginal utility. Marshall stated the law thus, “the additional benefit which a person derives from a given increase of the stock of a thing, diminishes with every increase in the stock that he already has”.
Demand refers to the quantity of a commodity demanded at a certain price, other things remaining the same. The individual demand curve can be directly derived from the law of diminishing marginal utility. Assuming the marginal utility of money to be constant as the satisfaction from the additional units of a commodity diminishes, the price offered to additional units will fall. Hence the demand curve slopes downwards.
These individual demand curves can be added together to get market demand curve. The market demand curve represents the total demand of all the consumers for a commodity at various prices. On the basis of diminishing utility, Marshall has developed the law of substitution.
So far consumer behaviour has been analysed with reference to only one commodity. In practical life, the consumer has to choose between more than one commodity. A rational consumer will spend his money in such a way that his total satisfaction is maximum. He will go on substituting one commodity for another till he gets maximum satisfaction.
5. Consumer’s Surplus:
Marshall added the term consumer’s surplus to economic literature. According to him, “The excess of price which he would be willing to pay rather than go without the thing, over that which he actually does pay, is the economic measure of this surplus satisfaction. It may be called consumer’s surplus”.
The consumers are generally prepared to pay a higher price for a commodity rather than go without it. But they actually pay less for it. As a result the consumer enjoys a surplus satisfaction and it is known as consumer’s surplus. The concept of consumer’s surplus has become the basis of welfare economics.
In the words of Eric Roll, “The whole field of welfare economics of which Marshall’s disciple and successor, Prof. Pigou, is the founder, really rests on considerations of which the consumers surplus doctrine is the intellectual ancestor”.
6. Elasticity of Demand:
It is another important concept which Marshall gave to economics. In Marshall’s own words. ‘The elasticity of demand in a market is great or small according as the amount demanded increases much or little for a given fall in price and diminish much or little for a given rise in price.
He distinguished between five degrees of elasticity—absolutely elastic, highly elastic, elastic, less elastic and inelastic. He laid down that the demand for luxuries was highly elastic, for comforts elastic and for necessaries inelastic.
Elasticity of demand can be measured by the percentage change in the amount demanded/ percentage change in price. Generally, elasticity of demand refers to price elasticity. Marshall was the first to define price elasticity of demand. Marshall gave three kinds of price elasticity—unity, greater than unity and less than unit elasticity. He also enumerated the factors governing elasticity of demand, viz., price level, nature of commodities, and variety of uses, substitutes, time element, taste and habit.
7. Supply and Cost:
Marshall developed his theory of supply on the lines similar to his analysis of demand. Just as the consumers obtain utilities or satisfaction from the consumption of commodities, it also involves,costs. Just as the marginal utility diminishes as a consumer increased his consumption of a commodity, the marginal cost rises as the production of a commodity expands.
A rational producer aims at minimising costs. The same equimarginal principle guides the producer in the matters of resource allocation. Like the consumer, the producer too “has to distribute his resources that they have the same marginal utility in each use; he has to weigh the loss that would result from taking away a little expenditure here, with the gain that would result from adding a little there”.
Marshall distinguished between real and money cost of production. Real cost of production refers to the efforts and sacrifices involved in making a commodity. Real costs include the exertion of labour and waiting for saving. Money cost of production indicates the sum of money that have to be paid for these efforts and sacrifices.
Marshall divided costs into prime and supplementary costs. Prime cost are variable costs and include wages and raw materials. Supplementary costs are fixed costs and include depreciation, interest on loans, rent and salaries of executives. In the short run, a firm has to cover its prime costs. But in the long run, a firm must cover both prime and supplementary costs.
8. Factors of Production:
According to Marshall, land and labour are the two chief factors of production. Capital is the secondary agent of production. Organisation is just a sort of labour. As a result, land and labour are the primary factors of production. Man being active, is the central force behind all activities relating to production and consumption, but nature plays a significant role as he is moulded by his surroundings and environment.
Marshall agreed with Malthus on the subject of population. Out of the three propositions, he held the first to be valid and second and third as invalid due to the changes that has taken place after the death of Malthus. According to Marshall, population of a country increases either by natural cause or by immigration. Marriages were affected by climatic conditions and lack of means to support a family.
He said that large families of healthy and physically fit children are an asset to the country and therefore, it is not true to say that an increase in population is detrimental to the economic prosperity of a nation. He believed that the state gained much from large families of healthy children. He wrote, “The members of a large family educated one another, they are usually more genial and bright, often more vigorous in every way than the members of a small family”.
Division of Labour:
Marshall held that increased demand for commodities and expansion of the market led to division of labour. Division of labour and improvement of machinery went together. Machinery provides several advantages viz., prevents monotony and relieves the strain of muscles.
In order to achieve maximum economy in production, each person should be constantly employed so that the skill and ability may be used in a best possible way. In short, Marshall recognised the importance and the advantages of division of labour.
Laws of Returns:
Marshall defined the Law of Diminishing Returns as follows: An increase in the capital and labour applied in the cultivation of land causes in general a less than proportionate increase in the amount of produce raised, unless it happens to coincide with an improvement in the arts of agriculture”. In an advanced country twice the amount of labour and capital applied to land would double the yield.
Marshall believed that agriculture was subject to the law of diminishing returns in the long run and the manufacturing industry was subject to the law of increasing returns. To quote Marshall, “the part which nature plays in production shows a tendency to diminishing returns, the part which man plays shows a tendency to increasing return”.
Marshall stated the Law of Increasing Returns thus. “An increase of labour and capital leads generally to improved organisation which increases the efficiency of the work of labour and capital.” In industries, an increase in units of labour and capital would result in more than proportionate increase in production.
Marshall defined the Law of Constant Returns in the following way. “If the actions of the laws of increasing and diminishing returns are balanced, we have the law of constant return and an increased produce is obtained by labour and sacrifice increased just in proportion”.
From his Laws of Returns, Marshall arrived at certain policy conclusions. He pointed out that an increasing returns industry would produce more cheaply. But he felt that the difficulty was that it would become a tool of power politics and it might not be put to proper use.
9. Internal and External Economies:
Economies of scale are of two types—internal and external. Internal economies are those which are dependent on the resources of the individual houses of business engaged in it, on their organisation and the efficiency of their management.
Internal economies arise within a firm when its production increases. External economies are external to a firm and accrue to it when the size of the industry expands. These economies are important to understand the nature of long-run supply curve of an industry.
(a) Economy of materials or the utilisation of by-products.
(b) Economy of machinery:
(i) In a large establishment, there are often many expensive machines which a small manufacturer cannot afford to use.
(ii) Larger machines are more efficient.
(iii) Small manufacturers are sometimes ignorant of the best types of machinery to use in their business.
(iv) Small manufactures cannot undertake expensive experiments.
(c) Economy in bulk buying and selling:
(i) Larger firms secure discounts for purchasing in huge quantity.
(ii) Larger firm pays low freights and saves on carriage in many ways.
(iii) It is cheaper to sell in large quantities.
(d) Economy of skill:
(i) Each man can be assigned to the task for which he is best fitted and thereby can acquire additional proficiency by repetition.
(e) Economy of finances. Larger firms secure credit on easier terms. Owing to these internal economies, the long-run average costs fail as output rises. But, after a certain level of output, average costs must rise due to growing managerial inefficiencies and marketing difficulties. Thus, internal economies and diseconomies explain why the long-run average cost curve is U-shaped.
As regards the external economies, Marshall discussed two general types:
(a) Economies of localisation, such as, cross fertilisation of ideas, the development of auxiliary and subsidiary industries, the availability of skilled labour,
(b) The growth of knowledge and progress of arts.
External economies appropriate to Marshall’s partial equilibrium analysis are those which are external to the firm but internal to the industry.
The downward sloping industry’s supply curve, which is the result of these economies, is drawn up on the assumption of constant technology because technological change causes a shift in the curve. This is a static analysis. But when we go through Marshall’s discussion of external economies, it is surprising to note that in no case they are confined to single industry. All the examples involve, in some way or the other, technological change, which requires a dynamic analysis.
In fact, Marshall failed to distinguish between reversible and irreversible external economies. Reversible economies—a static phenomenon—are destroyed when the output of the industry falls, while irreversible or technological economies—dynamic phenomenon—are retained even when output of the industry falls. Ordinarily, the economies in the industry are due to technological advances and thus are irreversible; reversible economies are very rare.
External economies or decreasing costs are also not compatible with Marshall’s assumption of perfect competition. This difficulty led to the development of the theory of imperfect competition in the 20th century. When the firms of an industry are producing under decreasing cost conditions as a result of external economies, any single firm will have a strong desire to monopolise all the firms of the industry. In that case, external economies will be internalised by the single monopolistic unit of production that has taken over all the competitive firms of the industry.
10. Marshallian Theory of Value and Time Element:
For a long time, there was a controversy regarding what determined the value of a commodity. The classical economists said that the cost of production (supply) determined value. But the economists of the early marginalist school said that demand based on marginal utility, determined the value of a commodity. But Marshall said that both supply and demand determined value.
Marshallian theory of value combines marginal utility with subjective real cost. According to Marshall, the forces behind both supply and demand determine value. Behind demand is marginal utility. Behind supply is real cost. According to Roll “the novelty of this view, compared with the Austrian version, is that cost of production comes into its own once more as a determinant of value”
Marshall likened supply and demand to two blades of a pair of scissors. It is useless to ask which does cutting.
In his own words, “we might as reasonably dispute, whether it is the upper or under blade of a pair of scissors that cuts a piece of paper, as whether value is governed by utility or cost of production. It is true that when one blade is held still, and the cutting is effected by moving the other, we may say with careless brevity that cutting is done by the second; but the statement is not strictly accurate, and is to be excused only so long us it claims to be merely a popular and not a strictly scientific account of what happens”.
Marshallian theory of value, owing to its emphasis both on supply and demand as forces governing value, is known as the Dual theory of value. It is important to note that the theory emphasises the role of margin. Value is determined by the forces of supply and demand at the margin. It is marginal utility and marginal cost of production that govern value.
On the basis of time element Marshall classified value into four kinds:
i. Market value,
ii. Short period value,
iii. Long period value and
iv. Secular value.
The market price of a commodity may be defined as the price ruling at a particular period. In the case of market price, the supply is fixed and price depends mainly on demand.
MS is the supply curve. DD is the market demand curve. P is the equilibrium price level. If the demand increases to D1D1 the price level will also increase to P1 as the supply is fixed. If the demand decreases, price also falls to P.
In the case of short period, it can be defined as “that period during which the variable inputs can be increased or decreased but the fixed plant can’t be changed”. So in the case of short period price, both demand and supply determine the price.
DD is the demand curve and MPS is the market period supply curve and SRS is the short r u n supply curve. When there is an increase in demand, DD will shift to D’D’ and the short run price will be OP at which new demand curve D’D’ intersects the SRS. The quantity supplied has also increased from OM to OM1. Thus in the short run a greater amount of the quantity is sold and price is not quite as high as in the market period.
In the case of long period, supply means “what can be produced by plant which itself can be remuneratively produced and supplied within the given time”. In the long run, cost of production is the most important determinant of price.
LRS is the long-run supply curve. MPS is the market supply curve and SRS is the short run supply curve. DD is the market demand curve and OP is the price. If the demand increases to D’D’, market price will increase to OP’. Short period price will be OP” at which SPS intersects the D’D’ curve. But in the long-run the price will be OP’ at which LRS intersects the D’D’ curve.
Marshall’s introduction of time element in economic analysis was one of his many significant contributions to economic thinking. In conceiving of market broadly into short and long period, his object was to “trace a continuous thread running through and connecting the applications of the general theory of equilibrium of demand and supply of different periods of time.”
11. Representative Firm:
Marshall has defined a representative firm as one “which has had a fairly long life and fair success, which is managed with normal ability and which has normal access to the economies, external and internal, which belong to that aggregate volume of production the conditions of marketing them and the economic environment generally”.
Marshall’s representative firm is in a sense an average firm. It is neither old nor new, neither very efficient nor inefficient. It is neither earning super normal profits nor incurring losses. It is neither developing fast nor decaying. This type of firm cannot be chosen easily. We will have to look the conditions of all the firms. Then only we can find out such an average firm. Marshall says, “the firms rise and fall but the representative firm remains always of the same size as does the representative tree of virgin forest”.
Marshall has taken the example of trees in a jungle. There are several types of trees, some are very old and are on the verge of dying. Some are very new and upcoming, some trees are there that do not allow the small trees to grow. Only a few will survive. They will gradually grow up. But we can find one such tree that is neither growing nor decaying. It is neither old nor new, that type of tree can be taken as representative tree.
Similarly we can find out our representative firm.
The firm will have the following characteristics:
(i) Representative firm will be an average firm. It has a fair amount of internal and external economies.
(ii) It is neither declining nor increasing.
(iii) It’s management is neither very efficient nor inefficient.
(iv) It is neither old nor new.
(v) It is neither earning super normal profits nor incurring losses.
(vi) There can be more than one such firm.
Marshall’s representative firm is severely criticised by the later economists. The whole concept was regarded as unreal.
The following were the main criticisms against the concept of representative firm:
(i) If the law of increasing returns operates in a firm then the firm will be enjoying profits. On the other hand if the firm is subject to the operation of decreasing returns, it will be incurring losses.
(ii) Robbins has said that even the clearest statement given by Marshall for his so called representative firm does not make it clear whether it is a representative plant or a technical production unit or a representative business unit.
(iii) Representative firm is also criticised as an illusory and unnecessary one.
(iv) Robertson has pointed out that in practice it is not so easy to locate a representative firm. A firm which may be representative now may not be in future.
(v) It is assumed that representative firm is neither increasing nor decaying. In practice we cannot find firms which will be happy in that position.
(vi) Kaldor regards the representative firm as a state of mind rather than a concrete analysis.
In-spite of the above criticisms, some economists have tried to locate a representative firm. Chapman and Taussig have tried to locate a representative firm in 1914 in England. Prof. J.K. Mehta had also tried to prove that the concept in not altogether incorrect.
According to Marshall, the theory of distribution is essentially a theory of factor pricing. The price of factors is determined by market forces, viz., demand and supply. The demand for a factor of production is a derived demand and depends on its marginal productivity. A producer employs more and more of factors of production till its reward is equal to its marginal productivity. Marshalls theory of distribution was essentially marginal productivity theory of distribution.
Marshall also accepted Wicksteed’s argument about the exhaustion of product. Marshall also admitted that the marginal productivity theory was not a complete theory of factor pricing as it considers only demand, neglecting the supply side.
The effective supply of a factor of production at any time, according to Marshall, depends “firstly on the stock of it in existence, and secondly on the willingness of those in whose charge it is, to apply it in production”. The equilibrium price of a factor is determined by the interaction of demand and supply.
Marshall introduced the concept of Quasi-rent in economic literature. “Quasi-rent is the income earned from machines and other appliances for production made by man”. The quasi-rent is the surplus earned by the instruments of production other than land.
According to Ricardo, the term rent is applied to income from land and other free gifts of nature, whereas quasi-rent is the income derived from man-made appliances and machines. The supply of these man-made producer goods cannot be increased in the short period even-though the demand for them may increase. Marshall therefore coined the term quasi-rent for the earnings of such capital goods in the short period.
Durable factors like machines, ships, house and even human skills are similar to land whose supply is fixed in the short-run. When the demand for them increases suddenly, their supply cannot be increased and they earn a surplus which is not rent but is similar to rent.
Marshall preferred to call these earnings in the short period as quasi-rent. This is only a temporary surplus which goes to the owner of capital equipment in the short-run due to the possibility of increase in supply of capital equipment in response to increase in demand.
Due to increase in urban population the demand for houses increases. But the supply cannot be increased because of the scarcity of building materials. Their supply is as much limited as that of land. This abnormal increase in their earnings is quasi-rent. It is not rent proper or pure rent because the supply of houses can be increased in the long-run.
Determination of Quasi Rent:
A firm under perfect competition must cover variable cost in the short-run. Marshall argues that in the short-run period, the fixed cost need not be covered because even if the firm closed down in the short period, it will continue to incur this cost.
The firm will be interested in covering the variable cost of production only. In case the short period price happens to be higher than the variable cost, the firm will get an income which is quasi rent. It does not constitute profit to the firm. This is illustrated in Fig. 4.
AVC is the average prime cost; PL, P1L1 and P2L2 are the price line where AR and MR coincide. At OP price the firm covers its average prime or variable cost, AM by producing OM output and quasi rent is zero. If price rises above OP to OP1 or OP2 Quasi rent emerges.
At OP1 price quasi rent is JK per unit and at OP2 price it is DE per unit. In the long-run if price rises above OP2 entry of new firms will eliminate quasi rent. Similarly at price below OP2 also quasi rent will disappear due to the exit of firm and thus quasi rent is only short-run phenomenon.
The supply of machine or any other capital equipment is fixed in the short period. The surplus earnings will continue. But in the long-run the supply can be increased and the surplus earnings will disappear. This can be illustrated with Fig 5.
In the Fig. 5. SS shows the absolutely inelastic supply curve of machines. The demand curve DD determines OP price at the point of intersection with the supply curve at E. When demand in the short- run increases to D1D1, the price goes up to OP1, but the supply of machines remains at OS.
The entire increase in price EE1, or PP1, constitutes quasi rent. This is because the number of machines are fixed in the short-run and the transfer earnings are zero. In the long-run the supply becomes perfectly elastic and any number of machines will be supplied at OP price and quasi rent disappears. E2Q covers just the transfer earning which is quasi rent. It does not constitute profit to the firm.
Quasi-Rent in Earnings of Other Factors of Production:
It is instructive to analyse quasi rent in the earnings of factors like labour, capital and organisation i.e. in wages, interest and profit.
(i) Quasi Rent and Interest:
The term interest is applied to a return on floating capital while quasi rent is the return from specialised or sunk capital. Interest on capital is a cost of production in all period, while quasi rent is a cost only in the long-run.
In the short-run however quasi rent is a surplus. Usually interest acts as an incentive to save. The higher rate of interest may induce only the marginal investors. But there are other investors who will save even at a lower rate of interest, such as super marginal investors and that surplus is the rent element in interest. Thus quasi rent is price determined while interest is price determining.
(ii) Quasi Rent in Wages:
Labour is heterogeneous. Labourers generally differ in their efficiency particularly in the case of personal efficiency. The more efficient workers enjoy a surplus or extra wage over the marginal workers. This surplus constitutes the quasi rent.
(iii) Quasi Rent in Profit:
Entrepreneurs also differ in their ability like labourers. An entrepreneur with his superior organising ability is able to produce more at a lower cost compared to a marginal entrepreneur. Accordingly he is able to enjoy more profit. This is considered as rent element in profit.
(iv) Quasi Rent in Personal Incomes:
Skilled persons like engineers, surgeons, lawyers and professors due to their abilities earn more than others. Their differential income is the quasi rent. Thus rent element is present in the personal income also.
Wages are the reward for labour. Wages are determined by demand and supply. The demand for labour arises because labour is productive. “Wages tend to equal the net product of labour; its marginal productivity rules the demand-price for it; and on the other side, wages tried to retain a close though indirect and intricate relation with the cost of rearing, training and sustaining the energy of efficient labour”.
Marshall attempted to combine the marginal productivity theory of relative wages with the Malthusian subsistence theory of the level of average aggregate wages. The forces governing the supply of labour vary in different market periods. The supply of labour is determined at the level where the marginal disutility of labour equals the marginal utility of labour.
The chief force governing the long run supply of labour is the cost of producing labour. Wages must be high enough to cover the worker’s expenditures for bare necessaries, for conventional necessaries and for habitual comfort. Thus Marshall did not discard the marginal productivity theory of wages but he regarded it as a part of a complete theory of distribution.
Marshallian theory of interest is an extension of Abstinence theory of interest of Senior. But he used the term waiting instead of abstinence. He said, “the sacrifice of present pleasures for the sake of future has been called abstinence by economists. But this term has been misunderstood for the greatest accumulators of wealth are very rich persons, some of whom live in luxury, and certainly do not practice abstinence……. since the term is liable to be misunderstood, we may with advantage avoid its use, and say that accumulation of wealth is generally the result of postponement of enjoyment, or of waiting for it”.
The rate of interest is determined, on the supply side, by prospectiveness or time preference and, on the demand side, on the productiveness. The demand for capital arises generally from its productiveness, from the services it renders. It is subject to diminishing returns. The supply of capital depends upon the fact that in order to accumulate capital, we must save, wait and sacrifice the present to the future.
In the short run, given the stock of capital, the rate of interest is mainly governed by the marginal productivity theory but in the long run, the cost of producing capital determines its return. Marshall ignored some other problems closely related to the theory of interest like the cumulative nature of interest and the effect of saving on invention.
Marshall gave to organisation the status of fourth factor of production and made profits the reward for organisation or the earnings of management. Organisation involves risk-bearing, business connection, and exceptional abilities of the entrepreneurs. In the long run, the profits are determined by the cost of production of entrepreneurial ability. However, his treatment of profit is vague.
14. Marshall’s Contribution to Monetary Economics:
Marshall’s book entitled Money, Credit and Commerce appeared in 1923 and his originality appeared to be more modern in the field of monetary problems. He believed that the value of money was a function of demand and supply. Marshall has also thrown light on the problem of rising price. He made a distinction between real and money rate of interest. For the first time, Marshall explained the causal process by which an increased money supply influences prices and also the part played by the rate of discount was explained by him.
Though the purchasing power parity theory was associated with the names of Ricardo and Cassel, it was Marshall who explained the rate of exchange between countries with mutually inconvertible currencies. Marshall also introduced the ‘chain’ method of compiling index numbers. Marshall also introduced a proposal of paper currency for the circulation based on gold and silver symmetallism as the standard.
Symmetallism refers to a method in which a bar of 2000 grams of silver is equal to a bar of 100 grams of gold. Under this system, the government must always be ready to buy or sell a wedded pair of bars for a fixed amount of currency. Marshall thought that this plan could be started by any nation without waiting for the concurrence of others.
Evaluation of Contributions by Alfred Marshall:
Marshall’s Principles cannot be considered a complete and satisfactory work on economics.
One finds a number of inadequacies and inconsistencies in Marshall’s analysis:
(a) He relegated diagrams and mathematical analysis to the appendices or footnotes,
(b) He concentrated his attention on the static micro theory and avoided the dynamic macroeconomic problems,
(c) His analysis was partial, and not general equilibrium analysis,
(d) His concepts of representative firm and consumer’s surplus were vague and imaginary,
(e) His assumption of perfect competition was unrealistic.
In spite of these weaknesses, Marshall is ranked with the most influential economists and his authority in the subject remains unchallenged. In fact, Marshall’s greatness as an economist lay not in his specific analytical contributions to economics, but in his efforts to solve the old problems and to create the new ones for coming generations.
He, on the one hand, grasped and synthesised the seemingly conflicting ideas of the earlier writers and solved the age-old dispute between the classical and neoclassical economists regarding the determination of value. On the other hand, he suggested many new directions for the future development of economic science.
Schumpeter pointed out a number of such directions while appraising Marshall’s work:
(a) Marshall’s Principles has guided the work of the generation he taught. Many of Marshall’s disciples, such as, Pigou, Robertson, Lavingston, Shove, Joan Robinson and Edgeworth developed, restated and worked up corollaries to Marshallian propositions and pieces of technique.
(b) Marshall was the first economist to show that perfect competition does not always maximise output. Output may be increased beyond the competitive maximum level by restricting decreasing return industries and expanding increasing return industries.
(c) The concept of elasticity has set a fashion of reasoning in terms of elasticities. Now there are about a dozen elasticity concepts in use.
(d) Marshall’s distinction between long-run and short-run has opened a new branch of economics, i.e., Short Time Analysis.
(e) Marshall is also the father of the theory of imperfect competition. His comments on the special markets of the individual firms led the economists like Sraffa, Harrod and Joan Robinson to develop the economics of imperfect competition.
(f) Marshall had fully grasped the idea of general equilibrium but he intentionally concentrated his attention on the handier partial equilibrium analysis.
(g) Marshall had a definite theory of economic evolution which as an instrument of research, greatly influenced the writings of H.L. Moore and W.M. Persons.
(h) Marshall also contributed to the development of modern econometrics. He firmly led the way towards, and prepared the ground for an economic science that would be not only quantitative but numerical.
Marshall wielded a great influence on the later economists both in England and abroad. His Principles is still considered a leading text book on economics not only in the country of its origin but wherever economics is studied seriously.
Perhaps it is the only 19th century work on economics that still sells in large numbers. In England, Marshall’s Principles is ranked with Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations and Ricardo’s Principles and commands similar respect.
A whole generation of brilliant students (prominent among them, are, Pigou, Robertson, J.M. Keynes, Joan Robinson, Mauric Dobb, R.F. Harrod) has been brought up on Marshall’s work and under his guidance. These students were destined to become leading economists. Marshall’s influence was not limited to his home country. His ideas also had their impact on F. W. Taussig and T.N Carver in America, on Pantaleoni and Pareto in Italy and on Cassel in Sweden.