The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Titmuss, Richard Morris (1907–1973)

  • Philippe Fontaine
Reference work entry


A professor of social administration at the London School of Economics (LSE) from 1950 to his death, Richard Titmuss has often been depicted as an inept critic of economics. With The Gift Relationship (1970), however, he managed to attract the attention of leading economists. Robert Solow (1971) and Kenneth Arrow (1972), for instance, took pains to write lengthy review articles of what they and a number of their prominent peers, such as James Buchanan and Milton Friedman, regarded as a highly significant book. In a subject which has a solid tradition of confining ethical matters to its periphery and which has frequently resisted ideas emanating from other social sciences, it is paradoxical that a book of strong ethical inspiration and uncertain disciplinary origins attracted so much interest. One way out this paradox is perhaps to note that, starting with Mancur Olson’s The Logic of Collective Action (1965), and accompanying the economic difficulties of the late 1960s, economists began to question the power of the invisible hand of the market in bringing about social cohesion. By the early 1970s the time was ripe for reconsidering the virtues of alternative coordinating mechanisms.


Arrow, K. Social policy Blood procurement Buchanan, J. Ethics and economics Friedman, M. Gifts Hayek, F. Institute of Economic Affairs Invisible hand Olson, M. Socialism Solow, R. Titmuss, R 

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  1. Arrow, K. 1972. Gifts and exchanges. Philosophy and Public Affairs 1: 343–362.Google Scholar
  2. Fontaine, P. 2002. Blood, politics and social science: Richard Titmuss and the Institute of Economic Affairs, 1957–1973. Isis 93: 401–434.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Olson, M. 1965. The logic of collective action: Public goods and the theory of groups. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Reisman, D. 2004. Richard Titmuss: Welfare as good conduct. European Journal of Political Economy 20: 771–794.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Solow, R. 1971. Blood and thunder. Yale Law Journal 80: 1696–1711.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philippe Fontaine
    • 1
  1. 1.