Markets, Productivity, and Happiness in a Historical Perspective

William Stanley Jevons in China: Stages of Perception

Borokh Olga , Institute of Far Eastern Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences

The paper examines the history of dissemination of Jevons’s ideas in China since the end of the 19th century to the present day. China contacted with Western economic thought through missionary translations. Jevons’s Primer of Political Economy became known in China before the main works of Western political economy. Extensive Sino-Western contacts in the 1920s-1930s created favorable conditions for dissemination of marginal utility theory and mathematical economics in China. The translation of The Theory of Political Economy was made in 1936 by Guo Dali, who also translated Marx’s Capital in collaboration with Wang Yanan. Since the 1950s under the influence of official ideology the interpretation of Jevons as a “vulgar bourgeois economist” prevailed. Modern interest in Jevons’s research into the coal question is driven by ecological concerns. The awareness about the importance of Chinese tradition revigorated the efforts to match Jevons’s sunspot theory with ancient ideas about cycles


Keywords: China, economic cycle, sunspot theory, final degree of utility, Marxism, mathematical economics, coal question

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