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These considerations thus clearly set Robbins' definition apart from the earlier definitions of economic activity in terms of maximization, despite the undoubtedly important part that the latter conception, in conjunction with the literature on scarcity, played in the emergence of Robbins' view of economics. Robbins' formulation of this view, which sees the essence of the subject matter of economics in the peculiar quality of economizing behavior, attracted the critical attention of economists to an extent achieved by no previous attempt at definition. Several waves of debate were set in motion concerning various aspects of the freshly expounded view. These must now be examined more closely, and their investigation will provide an opportunity to glance at the most important of the opinions inspired by Robbins' work.

Literary criticism: Literary criticism, the reasoned consideration of literary works and issues

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This statement of the nature of economics seems to have passed unnoticed in the literature. Happily, similar ideas were being formulated at about the very same time by the celebrated Italian philosopher, Benedetto Croce. His views were set down with rather greater painstaking precision and expounded against the background of a fully articulated general philosophical and epistemological system. As such, Croce's position has attracted the attention of a number of subsequent writers. It has not always been appreciated, however, how closely Croce's view of economics mirrors the praxeological outlook. This feature of Croce's ideas on the nature of economy and economics is brought clearly into focus by their juxtaposition with the radically different views of Pareto, with whom Croce conducted an elaborate exchange of opinions on the subject. A brief review of Croce's opinions as expressed in this published correspondence will at the same time provide a remarkably clear, if not complete, statement of the view of economics as a science of human action.