Thursday, October 04, 2007

One, Two, Three, Many Economics?

Marc Lavoie's article "Do Heterodox Theories Have Anything in Common? A Post-Keynesian Point of View" (Intervention, V. 3, N. 1 (2006): 87-112) is a contribution to an ongoing discussion. The first paragraph of this article mentions "Marxist economists, Sraffians..., structuralists..., institutionalists, regulationists, social or humanist economists, anti-utilitarists, behaviorists, economists of conventions, Schumpeterians (or evolutionary economists), circuitists, and feminist economists." But the focus seems to be on Post-Keynesians and the supposed split between fundamentalist Keynesians, Kaleckians, and Sraffians.

The label of fundamentalism as a type of Keynesians goes back at least to Alan Coddington. Keynesians of this type emphasize Chapter 12 of The General Theory and decision-making under radical uncertainty. Exemplars include Joan Robinson and Paul Davidson. One useful contrast is with "hydraulic" or "bastard Keynesians", such as exemplified by J. R. Hicks' IS/LM model under mainstream interpretations.

The perception of splits within Post Keynesianism also goes back to the late 1970s or early 1980s, with, for example, arguments between Joan Robinson and Pierangelo Garegnani. Robinson argued that Sraffianism, as a constructive theory for analyzing economies de-emphasized uncertainty too much, with its emphases on a long-period method. Garegnani has argued something like an emphasis on fundamental uncertainty cedes too much to the neo-classical (or mainstream) belief that labor markets tend to clear in the long-run and that Keynes offered a theory only applicable to the short-run. Paul Davidson extends and embraces Robinson's view that Sraffians cannot be part of an useful Post Keynesianism. Followers of Kalecki have gone their own way. At one point, Steedman, however, attacked some followers of Kalecki for missing the influence of distribution on relative prices. This influence needs to be accounted for in Kalecki's markup pricing. Harcourt has written of a "hourses for courses" approach and questioned whether Post Keynesianism could or should be one school of thought.

I think the Joan Robinson viewpoint is not too relevant to my usage of Sraffa's book as an internal critique of neoclassical theory. It is relevant if one tries to extend Sraffa to understand actual economies.

Lavoie finds some unifying elements in the views of Post Keynesians and others on rationality, price theory, growth theory, and the relationship between real and monetary analyses.


John Ryskamp said...

You never learned anything more about Sraffa as an advocate of natural mathematics. Why not? Start out by reading Garciadiego's book on Russell. Until you understanding the role of natural mathematics in western theory, you'll just prattle on, getting nowhere.

Ryskamp, John Henry, "Paradox, Natural Mathematics, Relativity and Twentieth-Century Ideas" (May 19, 2007). Available at SSRN:

Anonymous said...

I am interested by your description of Joan Robinson as
a "Chapter 12 Keynesian", upon what do you base this description? In which paper does she discuss uncertainty?

Anonymous said...

Hi, I only just noticed your request that anonymous posters give themselves a name of some sort, so I'll go with "fat nick"

FAT NICK said...

Ok, no reply, I expected as much. No paper is cited because....there isn't one! The idea of Robinson being a chapter 12 Keynesian is utterly preposterous.