5 Main Criticisms against Wealth Definition of Adam Smith

This definition was criticised on several grounds as follows:

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(i) Restricted Meaning of Wealth:

In Adam Smith’s wealth-oriented definition the meaning of wealth is restricted. Only material goods were considered as wealth. Non-material goods like services of doctors, lawyers and teachers were not considered as wealth. This restricted meaning of wealth has restricted the scope of study of economics.

(ii) Neglect Human Welfare:


During the later part of the 19th century, the economists started realizing the humanistic character of economics. It was visualized that wealth is only a means to an end, the end being human welfare. Therefore, some economist severely condemned Adam Smith wealth definition which gives too much importance on wealth and completely ignored human welfare.

(iii) The Concept of economic man:

The concept of economic man is criticised by Marshall and Pigou. They believed that economic man who works for selfish ends alone is not found in real life.

(iv) Ignores the Problem of scarcity and choice:

This definition by giving too much importance 011 wealth has completely ignored the problem of scarcity and choice.

(v) A Materialistic Definition:

Ruskin and Carlyle criticised this definition as a materialistic definition as it gives too much emphasis 011 wealth and neglect other humanitarian and social welfare aspects of man. Ruskin and Carlyle called Economics as a “bastard science”.


Due to above cited criticisms of wealth definition of economics, the definition was rejected. Gradually in the place of wealth, man and human activity occupied the primary place in subsequent definitions of economics.


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