dismal science

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English[edit]

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Etymology[edit]

Coined by Thomas Carlyle in 1849.

Noun[edit]

dismal science (plural dismal sciences)

  1. (idiomatic, sometimes derogatory, sometimes humorous) Economics or the field of political economy.
    • 1849, Thomas Carlyle, "Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question," Fraser's Magazine for Town and Country, vol. 40, pp. 530-531:
      [N]ot a "gay science," but a rueful—which finds the secret of this universe in "supply and demand" . . . a dreary, desolate and, indeed, quite abject and distressing one; what we might call, by way of eminence, the dismal science.
    • 1973, William R. Doerner, "‘Crypto Servants’ and Socialism (review of Economics and the Public Purpose by John Kenneth Galbraith)," Time, 8 Oct.:
      Galbraith has managed to write with wit and style about the ‘dismal science’ of economics.
    • 2002, E. B. Kapstein, "Two Dismal Sciences Are Better Than One—Economics and the Study of National Security," International Security, vol. 27, no. 3, p. 160:
      Two Dismal Sciences: Economics and National Security—Writing during World War II, J. B. Condliffe lamented, "Economists have not contributed in very large measure to the recent outpouring of publications on the causes, conduct, and consequences of war." By the turn of the millennium, however, the situation had changed.