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History of Political Economy 33.2 (2001) 369-374

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Why Didn't Hayek Review Keynes's General Theory?
A Partial Answer

Susan Howson

Bruce Caldwell in his interesting article “Why Didn't Hayek Review Keynes's General Theory?” (1998) poses an intriguing question, to which of course there may be no definitive answer. As he emphasizes, Hayek himself later gave more than one answer to the question as to why he had never published a direct attack on John Maynard Keynes's General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money by way of a review or otherwise. Caldwell also wonders whether there might exist any other sources besides Hayek's recollections available to shed light on the question.

As the biographer of Lionel Robbins I share Caldwell's frustration over the lack of correspondence between Hayek and Robbins. As Caldwell notes, the two men were too close to write to each other. They did not meet or correspond before Hayek was invited to give four University Advanced Lectures in Economics at the London School of Economics in the Lent Term of 1931. Although there is no reason to doubt Hayek's recollection that Robbins had been so impressed with Hayek's critique of the theories of William Trufant Foster and Waddill Catchings in his Zeitschrift article “Gibt es einen Widersinn des Sparens?” (Hayek 1930) as to propose that Hayek be invited to lecture at LSE (Hayek 1994, 74–75), the invitation did not come directly from Robbins (Hayek 1935b, vii). (And, incidentally, contrary to the claims of Joan Robinson and others [Caldwell 1998, 550], the invitation was made and accepted [End Page 369] before Robbins had his famous row with Keynes in the Committee of Economists of the Economic Advisory Council in the autumn of 1930.)1 In a matter of months the two men were colleagues and close friends who saw each other every day both at the School and in their homes. While Hayek was a visiting professor he rented a house in the next street to Robbins's in Hampstead Garden Suburb; when he became the Tooke Professor he moved to another house a few yards away. As Caldwell points out, Hayek's moves from Vienna to London and from London to America also mean there are very few surviving letters to Hayek from his other friends in the 1930s. The correspondence in the Hayek Papers (in the Hoover Institution at Stanford University) with Ludwig von Mises and Karl Popper, for instance, is extensive but begins only in 1938–39.

However, letters from Hayek written in the 1930s to friends who moved to the States before he did do survive. In search of LSE gossip I have read some of these letters to Fritz Machlup and Gottfried Haberler, both of whose papers are now in the archives of the Hoover Institution at Stanford (and have been since Haberler's death in 1995). After a year as a visiting professor at Harvard in 1931–32, Haberler returned to Vienna, but at the beginning of 1934 he went to Geneva to work on the business cycle project at the League of Nations and then in 1936 permanently to Harvard. Machlup first went to the States on a Rockefeller Fellowship in 1933–35 and then to the University of Buffalo as an assistant professor in January 1936. In Hayek's letters to them, he reported on the progress or otherwise of his own work, as well as on the activities of Robbins and of other colleagues and their students. The letters are of course in German—until the correspondents switched to English on the outbreak of World War II. The translations below are mine.

One other possible source of data for the answer to Caldwell's question is not in fact helpful. Although the archives of Economica, of which Robbins was the acting editor in the 1930s, survive at LSE, they consist mainly of minutes of the monthly editorial board meetings. These record the decisions on the contents of each issue and list the reviewers chosen for...


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