Working Paper BETA #2022-35

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Title : Families and Women in Alfred Marshall’s Analysis of Well-being and Progress

Author(s) : Virginie Gouverneur

Abstract : Some commentators state that Marshall conceptualizes the well-being primarily in terms of the consumer’s surpluses, whose interdependence with the moral character rests on the ability of markets to produce their effects on character spontaneously. The purpose of the article is to show that evolutionary faith is not really enough to remove the tension between the economic and moral dimensions of Marshall’s definition of the well-being. Marshall understands that progress would not happen without assigning a peculiar role to families and women in cultivating family affections as an essential means to secure the link between these two dimensions. To prove this point, the article examines several economic texts written before Marshall’s major economic book, Principles of Economics, the first edition of which appeared in 1890. These writings have received little consideration in the existing literature about Marshall’s treatment of the role of women in a capitalist economy. Yet, they prefigure and allow to better understanding the theory expounded in Principles.

Key-words : Alfred Marshall, family environment, women’s role, well-being, progress.

JEL Classification : B13, I31