Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. The term economics comes from the Ancient Greek οἰκονομία (oikonomia, "management of a household, administration") from οἶκος (oikos, "house") + νόμος (nomos, "custom" or "law"), hence "rules of the house(hold)". Political economy was the earlier name for the subject, but economists in the late 19th century suggested "economics" as a shorter term for "economic science" that also avoided a narrow political-interest connotation and as similar in form to "mathematics", "ethics", and so forth. A focus of the subject is how economic agents behave or interact and how economies work. Consistent with this, a primary textbook distinction is between microeconomics and macroeconomics. Microeconomics examines the behavior of basic elements in the economy, including individual agents (such as households and firms or as buyers and sellers) and markets, and their interactions. Macroeconomics analyzes the entire economy and issues affecting it, including unemployment, inflation, economic growth, and monetary and fiscal policy. Other broad distinctions include those between positive economics (describing "what is") and normative economics (advocating "what ought to be"); between economic theory and applied economics; between rational and behavioral economics; and between mainstream economics (more "orthodox" and dealing with the "rationality-individualism-equilibrium nexus") and heterodox economics (more "radical" and dealing with the "institutions-history-social structure nexus"). Economic analysis may be applied throughout society, as in business, finance, health care, and government, but also to such diverse subjects as crime, education, the family, law, politics, religion, social institutions, war, and science. At the turn of the 21st century, the expanding domain of economics in the social sciences has been described as economic imperialism.
There are a variety of modern definitions of economics. Some of the differences may reflect evolving views of the subject or different views among economists. Scottish philosopher Adam Smith (1776) defined what was then called political economy as "an inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations", in particular as: a branch of the science of a statesman or legislator [with the twofold objectives of providing] a plentiful revenue or subsistence for the people ... [and] to supply the state or commonwealth with a revenue for the publick services. J.-B. Say (1803), distinguishing the subject from its public-policy uses, defines it as the science of production, distribution, and consumption of wealth. On the satirical side, Thomas Carlyle (1849) coined "the dismal science" as an epithet for classical economics, in this context, commonly linked to the pessimistic analysis of Malthus (1798). John Stuart Mill (1844) defines the subject in a social context as: The science which traces the laws of such of the phenomena of society as arise from the combined operations of mankind for the production of wealth, in so far as those phenomena are not modified by the pursuit of any other object. Alfred Marshall provides a still widely cited definition in his textbook Principles of Economics (1890) that extends analysis beyond wealth and from the societal to the microeconomic level: Economics is a study of man in the ordinary business of life. It enquires how he gets his income and how he uses it. Thus, it is on the one side, the study of wealth and on the other and more important side, a part of the study of man. Lionel Robbins (1932) developed implications of what has been termed "[p]erhaps the most commonly accepted current definition of the subject": Economics is a science which studies human behaviour as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses. Robbins describes the definition as not...
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