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History of Political Economy 32.4 (2000) 1033-1036

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Book Review

Italian Economists of the 20th Century

Italian Economists of the 20th Century. Edited by Ferdinando Meacci. Cheltenham, U.K., and Northampton, Mass.: Edward Elgar, 1998. 304 pp. £59.95; $95.00

This book contains twelve essays on some important Italian economists whose works cover a period starting shortly before 1890 and extending up to present times. The essays deal with Vilfredo Pareto (by A. Kirman), Maffeo Pantaleoni (Peter Groenewegen), Enrico Barone (P. C. Dooley), Antonio De Viti de Marco (O. Kayaalp), Marco Fanno (R. Arena), Costantino Bresciani-Turroni (H. D. Kurz), Luigi Einaudi (F. Meacci), Piero Sraffa (B. Schefold), Franco Modigliani (C. Dangel), Paolo Sylos Labini (J. Halevi), Pierangelo Garegnani (G. Mongiovi), and L. Luigi Pasinetti (J. R. Teixeira). A short but well-meditated introduction by Ferdinando Meacci opens the volume and advances a suggestive hypothesis for a comprehensive interpretation of the evolution of Italian economic thought during the last 110 years.

The authors presented in the book are called Italians not because of their birthplace (as is well known, Pareto was born in Paris), and not because of their workplace (think of Pareto, Sraffa, Modigliani, and Pasinetti), but mainly because of their mother tongue and Italian education. It is interesting to note that almost all of them originally published some of their main works in a non-Italian language. Besides Pareto, the cases of Pantaleoni, Fanno, Bresciani, and, partially, Einaudi should be mentioned. Some of these economists’ most relevant contributions have been translated into English, albeit sometimes much later. From Sraffa on, the linguistic barrier has fallen, and many of the works first published in English by these twelve economists now exist in Italian.

Often the linguistic barrier has been circumvented through the inclusion of translations of classic Italian economic papers in a few very well known anthologies: Friedrich Hayek’s volume on collectivism (1935), R. A. Musgrave and C. S. Shoup’s volume on taxation (1959), and the volume on preferences edited by J. Chipman and colleagues (1971) come to mind, not to mention the more recent initiatives by Augusto Graziani (1995), who has always devoted much effort to the diffusion of the works of past Italian economists. However, the most classic collections remain [End Page 1033] the volumes of International Economic Papers (some issues in vol. 5, 1955, feature works by Pareto, Pantaleoni, and Einaudi; an issue in vol. 6, 1956, puts the spotlight on M. Fasiani; and vol. 7, 1957, contains an issue that centers on Einaudi) and, above all, the three volumes of Italian Economic Papers edited by Pasinetti and published in English by the Oxford University Press from 1992 to 1998.

The selection of authors made in the present book is adequate, even though another couple of names (those of L. Amoroso and G. Demaria) would probably deserve to appear in this golden list of leading Italian economists. The choice of contributors has been truly international, with a slight prevalence of French scholars (four); there are two American scholars, a Canadian, an Australian, a German, an Austrian, a Brazilian, and an Italian. The essays share a basically homogeneous approach, since in all of them the theoretical contributions of the specific author have been privileged. Some of the essays focus on the analytical contribution made by a single paper or book.

In his introduction, Meacci claims that the evolution of Italian economic thought in the twentieth century originated from two sources, Pantaleoni and Sraffa. These two economists played that role not because they directed or favored the economic studies of some prominent Italian economists, but mainly because they culturally belonged to two streams of economic thought that were alternatives to, respectively, the theory of general economic equilibrium and the current mainstream of neoclassical theory, descending from the Marshallian approach to partial equilibrium. The two streams of thought present some internal articulations that depend on the different personalities of the economists, on the main economic problems of the period in which they lived, and on their specific biographical experiences.

The interpretation advanced by Meacci is stimulating...


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