Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1: A Contribution to the Critique of the Concept Economic Activity - Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis
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1: A Contribution to the Critique of the Concept “Economic Activity” - Ludwig von Mises, Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis 
Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, trans. J. Kahane, Foreword by F.A. Hayek (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1981).
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A Contribution to the Critique of the Concept “Economic Activity”
Economic Science originated in discussion of the money price of goods and services. Its first beginnings are to be found in inquiries about coinage, which developed into investigations of price movements. Money, money prices, and everything concerned with calculation in terms of money—these form the problems in the discussion of which the science of Economics emerged. Those attempts at economic inquiry, which are discernible in works on household management and the organization of production—particularly agricultural—did not develop further in this direction. They became merely the starting point for various departments of technology and natural science. And this was no accident. Only through the rationalization inherent in economic calculation based on the use of money could the human mind come to understand and trace the laws of its action.
The earlier economists did not ask themselves what the “economic” and “economic activity” really were. They had enough to do with the great tasks presented by the particular problems with which they were then concerned. They were not concerned with methodology. It was quite late before they began to grapple with the methods and ultimate aims of economics, and its place in the general system of knowledge. And then an obstacle was encountered which seemed to be insurmountable—the problem of defining the subject matter of economic activity.
All theoretical inquiries—those of the classical economists, equally with those of the moderns—start from the economic principle. Yet, as was necessarily soon perceived, this provides no basis for clearly defining the subject matter of economics. The economic principle is a general principle of rational action, and not a specific principle of such action as forms the subject of economic inquiry.1 The economic principle directs all rational action, all action capable of becoming the subject matter of a science. It seemed absolutely unserviceable for separating the “economic” from the “non-economic,” so far as the traditional economic problems were concerned.2
But, on the other hand, it was equally impossible to divide up rational actions according to the immediate end to which they were directed, and to regard as the subject matter of economics only those actions which were directed to providing mankind with the commodities of the external world. Against such a procedure it is a decisive objection that, in the last analysis, the provision of material goods serves not only those ends which are usually termed economic, but also many other ends.
Such a division of the motives of rational action involves a dual conception of action—action from economic motives, on the one side, action from non-economic motives, on the other—which is absolutely irreconcilable with the necessary unit of will and action. A theory of rational action must conceive such action as unitary.
[1. ]It was left to the empirical-realistic school, with its terrible confusion of all concepts, to explain the economic principle as a specific of production under a money economy, e.g., Lexis, Allgemeine Volkswirtschaftslehre (Berlin and Leipzig, 1910), p. 15.
[2. ]Amonn, Objekt und Grundbegriffe der theoretischen Nationalökonomie (Vienna and Leipzig, 1927), p. 185.