Titmuss, Richard Morris (1907–1973)
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.