The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Gray, John (1799–1883)

  • N. W. Thompson
Reference work entry


From the time that he went to work in a London manufacturing and wholesale house at the age of 14, Gray was, apparently, interested in social reform and, after attending the London tavern debates of 1817, his thinking began to assume an Owenite socialist complexion. It was this interest in cooperative socialism that led him to visit the community established by Abram Combe at Orbiston in 1825, though his reaction as expressed in A Word of Advice to the Orbistonians (1826) was critical. Nevertheless his first major work, A Lecture on Human Happiness (1825), did embrace the communitarian ideal. In it he argued that under competitive capitalism the real income of the country, which consisted of the quantity of wealth annually produced by the labour of the people, was taken from its producers through the rent, interest and profits of those who bought labour at one price and sold it at another. This failure to exchange equivalents would be eliminated through the formation of cooperative communities and the abolition of the competitive system of exchange itself.

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • N. W. Thompson
    • 1
  1. 1.