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The Economics of Joan Robinson (review)
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The Economics of Joan Robinson. Edited by Maria Cristina Marcuzzo, Luigi L. Pasinetti, and Alessandro Roncaglia. London: Routledge, 1996. 370 pp. $90.00.

The volume contains a selection of papers presented at a conference in memory of Joan Robinson in Turin in 1993, ten years after her death. Most of the authors had been students or colleagues of Robinson. Very much in the spirit of her work, the papers are both critical and constructive analyses of different aspects of her work.

The papers are organized in sections reflecting the chronology of development of Robinson’s thinking. The papers in the first section (by Maria Cristina Marcuzzo, Marco Dardi, and Nicolà De Vecchi) refer to the period when, influenced by Richard Kahn and Piero Sraffa, she developed her thinking on the short period, the outcome being her Economics of Imperfect Competition. The second section (J. A. Kregel, Pierangelo Garegnani, Massimo Pivetti, Giangiacomo Nardozzi, and Annamaria Simonazzi) refers to her contribution to the Keynesian revolution, including consideration of policy implications. Then Robinson’s grappling with Marxian ideas is addressed (by Marco Lippi, Fernando Vianello, and Giorgio Gilibert), and, in the following section, her subsequent attempts to forge a link between long-run and short-run analysis in her dynamic analysis, with its themes of the relations among accumulation, income distribution, economic development, and economic policy (Siro Lombardini, Salvatore Biasco, Roberto Scazzieri, Paulo Varri, Pierluigi Ciocca, and Amit Bhaduri). The penultimate section is devoted to the capital controversies in which Robinson played such a central part (Luigi Pasinetti, Stefano Zamagni, Jack Birner, Neri Salvadori, Ferdinando Meacci, and Bruno Jossa). The final section is devoted to her ideas on method, and imputations of her ideas on methodology (Andrea Salanti, Bertram Schefold, and G. C. Harcourt). The volume is completed by an updated, thirty-three page documentation of the writings of Robinson by Marcuzzo, which will be invaluable for Robinson scholars.

The volume thus reflects the richness and diversity of Robinson’s work and accordingly defies summary treatment. Many clues emerge from the volume by which we might begin to analyze Robinson’s impact on twentieth-century economics. Her writing was notable for its frequent reference to metatheoretical issues, and ideology as embedded in economic theory was a continuing theme. Robinson made her own ideology clear and chastised neoclassical economists for not doing likewise. She was also acutely concerned that theory be constructed in such a way as to be applicable to policy issues; she highlighted the way that history, and the fact of uncertainty, were excluded by the equilibrium analysis of neoclassical economics. Robinson also laid great stress on internal logic. But as Salanti discusses in chapter 24, the relative roles of ideology and empiricism in the establishment of assumptions then become important: how far can a critique of internal logic be separated from ideological differences? This is a continuing issue that Robinson grappled with in a way from which we can learn much. With Robinson herself it is difficult to isolate the narrow logic of her arguments from her more general approach to economics. But, whether by force of pure logic or by a more multidimensional forcefulness, [End Page 598] there can be no doubt of the power and influence of Joan Robinson’s arguments on economists and economics.

Sheila C. Dow
University of Stirling