I was surprised at how many reviews of Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century draw on the Cambridge Capital Controversy to argue that Piketty's theoretical framework is grossly inadequate.
- James K. Galbraith's Spring 2014 review in Dissent.
- Dean Baker last May.
- October 2014 special issue of the Real-World Economics Review.
- Tony Aspromourgos's Thomas Piketty, the future of capitalism and the theory of distribution: a review essay (October 2014) (H/T: David Fields).
- Javier Lopez Bernardo, Felix Lopez Martinez, and Engelbert Stockhammer's A Post-Keynesian Response to Piketty's 'Fundamental Contradiction of Capitalism' (October 2014) (H/T Lars P. Syll). This response brings up, in addition to the CCC, the Post Keynesian theory of distribution.
- John Bellamy Foster and Michael D. Yates' review in Monthly Review
I like this Aspromourgos quote:
However classical the questions Piketty addresses, when he turns to explain the determination of r he has recourse to the conventional, post-classical marginal productivity theory of distribution: diminishing marginal capital productivity is 'natural' and 'obvious' (212–16). (He is much less willing to have recourse to time preference: 358–61; cf. 399–400.) The logical critique of capital aggregates – applied either at the macro or micro level – as supposed independent explanatory variables in the theory of profit rates, first coherently stated by Piero Sraffa (1960, pp. 81–7; see also Kurz and Salvadori 1995, pp. 427–67), is nowhere acknowledged or addressed. That such a relatively well-read economist as Piketty can so unhesitatingly apply this bankrupt approach, is testament to how completely a valid body of critical theoretical analysis can be submerged and forgotten in social science (a phenomenon for the sociologists of knowledge to contemplate). This is so, notwithstanding that Piketty offers a brief interpretation of the 'Cambridge' capital debates, making them turn upon the issues of whether there is substitutability in production (and associated flexibility of capital-output ratios), and whether or not 'growth is always perfectly balanced [i.e., full-employment growth]' (230–32). In fact, the participants on both sides of those debates were concerned with production systems in which substitution and capital-output variability occurred; and continuous full-employment growth was not entailed by recourse to orthodox, marginalist production functions, a point perfectly understood by the participants on both sides. -- Tony Aspromourgos
Update (27 October 2014): Added the Bernardo, Martinez, and Stockhammer reference.
Update (1 December 2014): Added the Foster and Yates reference.