Publication Date


Document Type

Working Paper


Professor John Hall

Journal of Economic Literature Classification Codes

B13, B31, B41

Key Words

Neoclassical Thought, Marginal Utility Theory, Allocation of Markets, Jeremy Bentham, William Stanley Jevons, Alfred Marshall


This inquiry examines the works of the early thinkers in marginalist theory and seeks to establish that certain philosophical assumptions about the nature of man led to the development and ultimate ascendance of neoclassical thought in the field of economics. Jeremy Bentham’s key assumption, which he develops in his 1781 work, A Fragment on Government and an Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, that men are driven by the forces of pain and pleasure led directly to William Stanley Jevons and Carl Menger’s investigation and advancement of utility maximization theory one hundred years after Bentham, in 1871. Alfred Marshall and Léon Walras are considered in this inquiry as the thinkers responsible for the encoding of Bentham, Jevons, and Menger’s work on human nature and utility into economic “law.”


© Emily Pitkin

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