Monday, August 13, 2012

Phyllis Deane, An Editor Of The Modern Cambridge Economics Series

Matias Vernengo has noted the passing of Phyllis Deane.

I think of Deane as a historian of economics, based on her 1978 book The Evolution of Economic Ideas. In it, she portrays economics as a succession of struggles between competing paradigms, in Thomas Kuhn's sense of the word. Economics was in a pre-paradigm state before Adam Smith. She contrasts this approach to history with an approach emphasizing refinements of analysis, as in Joseph Schumpeter's posthumous history.

But I want to point out another role she took on. Her book was the first in the Modern Cambridge Economics series. And she was co-editor, with Joan Robinson, of that series. She was later co-editor with Geoffrey Harcourt and Jan Kregel. As of Asimakopulos 1991 book, the series consisted of:
  • Phyllis Deane, The Evolution of Economic Ideas
  • Joan Robinson, Aspects of Development and Underdevelopment
  • A. K. Bagchi, The Political Economy of Underdevelopment
  • Éprime Eshag, Fiscal and Monetary Policies and Problems in Developing Countries
  • Michael Ellman, Socialist Planning
  • Colin Rogers, Money, Interest and Capital
  • A. Asimakopulos, Keynes's General Theory and Accumulation
Here is the original introduction to this series of books:

"The modern Cambridge Economic designed in the same spirit and with the similar objectives to the series of Cambridge Economic Handbooks launched by Maynard Keynes soon after the First World War. Keynes' series, as he explained in his introduction, was intended 'to convey to the ordinary reader and to the uninitiated student some conception of the general principles of thought which economists now apply to economic problems'. He went on to describe its authors as, generally speaking, 'orthodox members of the Cambridge School of Economics' drawing most of their ideas and prejudices from 'the two economists who have chiefly influenced Cambridge thought for the past fifty years, Dr. Marshall and Professor Pigou' and as being 'more anxious to avoid obscure forms of expression than difficult ideas'.

This series of short monographs is also aimed at the intelligent undergraduate and interested general reader, but it differs from Keynes' series in three main ways: first in that it focuses on aspects of economics which have attracted the particular interest of economists in the post Second War World era; second in that its authors, though still sharing a Cambridge tradition of ideas, would regard themselves as deriving their main inspiration from Keynes himself and his immediate successors, rather than from the neoclassical generation of the Cambridge school; and third in that it envisages a wider audience than readers in mature capitalist economies, for it is equally aimed at students in developing countries whose problems and whose interactions with the rest of the world have helped to shape the economic issues which have dominated economic thinking in recent decades.

Finally, it should be said that the editors and authors of this Modern Cambridge Economics series represent a wider spectrum of economic doctrine than the Cambridge School of Economics to which Keynes referred in the 1920s. However, the object of the series is not to propagate particular doctrines. It is to stimulate students to escape from conventional theoretical ruts and to think for themselves on live and controversial issues."

-- Joan Robinson and Phyllis Deane

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