MIA: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of People



Jevons - dapper looking guy with bow tie and trimmed beard

Jevons, William Stanley (1835-1882)

English logician and economist who expounded in his book The Theory of Political Economy (1871) the "final" (marginal) utility theory of value. Jevons' work, along with similar discoveries made by Karl Menger in Vienna (1871) and by Léon Walras in Switzerland (1874), marked the opening of a new period in the history of economic thought.

Jevons broke off his studies of the natural sciences in London in 1854 to work as an assayer in Sydney, where he acquired an interest in political economy. Returning to England in 1859, he published General Mathematical Theory of Political Economy in 1862, outlining the marginal utility theory of value, and A Serious Fall in the Value of Gold in 1863. For Jevons, the utility or value to a consumer of an additional unit of a product is inversely related to the number of units of that product he already owns, at least beyond some critical quantity.

It was for The Coal Question (1865), in which he called attention to the gradual exhaustion of Britain's coal supplies, that he received public recognition. The most important of his works on logic and scientific methods is his Principles of Science (1874), as well as The Theory of Political Economy (1871) and The State in Relation to Labour (1882).