Dismal Science

AAA

DEFINITION of 'Dismal Science'

A term coined by Scottish writer, essayist and historian Thomas Carlyle to describe the discipline of economics. The term dismal science was inspired by T. R. Malthus' gloomy prediction that population would always grow faster than food, dooming mankind to unending poverty and hardship.

INVESTOPEDIA EXPLAINS 'Dismal Science'

Exactly what inspired the term has been a subject of debate. Those who doubt the story say that Carlyle was reacting not to Malthus but economists such as John Stuart Mill, who argued that institutions, not race, explained why some nations were rich and others poor. Carlyle attacked Mill, not for supporting Malthus' predictions about the dire consequences of population growth, but for supporting the emancipation of slaves. It was the discipline's assumption that people are basically all the same and thus entitled to liberty that led Carlyle to label the study of economics "the dismal science". The connection was so well known throughout the 19th century, that even cartoonists would refer to it knowing that their audience would understand the reference.

RELATED TERMS
  1. Keynesian Economics

    An economic theory of total spending in the economy and its effects ...
  2. Thomas Malthus

    An 18th-century British philosopher and economist famous for ...
  3. Social Sciences

    A group of academic disciplines that examine society and how ...
  4. Eric S. Maskin

    An American professor of social science at the Institute for ...
  5. Nouriel Roubini

    An economist largely known for his prediction of the 2008 financial ...
  6. Oliver E. Williamson

    An American economist, the recipient of the 2009 Nobel Prize ...
Related Articles
  1. Economics

    Economics Basics

    Learn economics principles such as the relationship of supply and demand, elasticity, utility, and more!
  2. Economics

    The Uncertainty Of Economics: Exploring The Dismal Science

    Learning about the study of economics can help you understand why you face contradictions in the market.
  3. Economics

    Where is cost of living lowest in the world?

    Learn how the cost of living is the lowest in India based on numbers derived from the CPI and organizations like Expatistan and Numbeo.
  4. Investing

    Opportunity Cost

    Every action has a cost, even the ones you don't pursue. Find out how this is calculated.
  5. Fundamental Analysis

    How Influential Economists Changed Our History

    Find out how these five groundbreaking thinkers laid our financial foundations.
  6. Economics

    How Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac Were Saved

    These mortgage giants had to be put under government conservatorship, driving home the gravity of the subprime crisis.
  7. Economics

    The Economics Of Labor Mobility

    Loosening labor restrictions has both good and bad effects for a country and its workers.
  8. Economics

    Macroeconomics

    Find out everything you need to know about macroeconomics.
  9. Investing

    What is the Mont Pelerin Society?

    The Mont Pelerin Society was formed in 1947 when economist Friedrich von Hayek invited 39 people to meet at Mont Pelerin in Switzerland. Mostly made up of economists, the group was brought together ...
  10. Economics

    What Is Opportunity Cost And Why Does It Matter?

    Economists suggest that the "opportunity cost" of any decision, the value of the next-best alternative, is crucial to making sound choices.

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Multinational Corporation - MNC

    A corporation that has its facilities and other assets in at least one country other than its home country. Such companies ...
  2. SWOT Analysis

    A tool that identifies the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of an organization. Specifically, SWOT is a basic, ...
  3. Simple Interest

    A quick method of calculating the interest charge on a loan. Simple interest is determined by multiplying the interest rate ...
  4. Special Administrative Region - SAR

    Unique geographical areas with a high degree of autonomy set up by the People's Republic of China. The Special Administrative ...
  5. Annual Percentage Rate - APR

    The annual rate that is charged for borrowing (or made by investing), expressed as a single percentage number that represents ...
  6. Free Carrier - FCA

    A trade term requiring the seller to deliver goods to a named airport, terminal, or other place where the carrier operates. ...
Trading Center