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History of Political Economy 36.1 (2004) 195-206

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Keynes's Lectures at the New School for Social Research

Richard J. Kent

In 1931 Keynes visited the United States for five weeks. The ostensive reason for the visit was to give three public lectures at the Harris Memorial Foundation symposium on unemployment at the University of Chicago.1 According to Roy Harrod (1963, 437), though, the primary purpose of Keynes's visit was to investigate what economic conditions were in the United States. At the beginning of his visit Keynes was in New York City for almost two weeks. While he was in New York he gave two lectures at the New School for Social Research. The two lectures that Keynes reportedly delivered at the New School are published in volume 20 of The Collected Writings of John Maynard Keynes (CW), on pages 544–53. It is argued in section 4 of this essay that the second lecture in the CW is [End Page 195] not the lecture Keynes actually gave. A possible explanation why Keynes delivered a different lecture than the one that is published in the CW is put forward in section 5.

Not only is the second lecture published in the CW not the lecture Keynes actually delivered; it is also incomplete. Either Keynes never finished this published version of the lecture or a page or pages are missing. This is discussed in section 3.

The first lecture published in the CW does appear to be the lecture Keynes actually delivered in New York. But there is a line of typescript missing (CW, 20:546). In section 2 of this essay a hypothesis is put forward as to what the missing line is. But first let us begin with a very brief discussion of the circumstances surrounding Keynes's two lectures at the New School.

1. Lectures at the New School

At the beginning of 1931 Keynes was invited by Professor Quincy Wright to participate in a symposium on unemployment organized by the Harris Memorial Foundation at the University of Chicago that summer. After Keynes had agreed to participate in the symposium, Alvin Johnson, the director of the New School for Social Research, wrote Keynes asking him to give one or more lectures at the New School while he was in New York City in June during his trip to the United States. Keynes replied that he would like to fit a lecture at the New School in if he could, but his plans in New York were very indefinite. The object of his visit to New York was to pick up information rather than to impart it. He was anxious not to undertake work that would interfere with this. He asked if he could let Johnson know later if he could fit the lecture in (Keynes Papers, reel 41, p. AV/1/36). Johnson responded that people were in a fog concerning the world crisis, then added:

If you make one single address in this country you will compel a thousand other makers of public opinion to come to grips with the realities of the situation.

Therefore I do not see how it is practicable for you to come into New York, gather information and go away again, without a public expression of your views.

(Keynes Papers, reel 41, p. AV/1/37)

It appears Keynes did not agree to lecture at the New School until the day he actually left for the United States. On a letter Keynes wrote to [End Page 196] Johnson, dated 15 April 1931, in which Keynes had said it was uncertain whether the Treasury Committee on Finance and Industry, of which he was a member, will have completed its report by the end of May and therefore Keynes might have to postpone his trip to New York, a few lines are written in Keynes's handwriting. It says, "Sailing Adriatic today could give one lecture between June 11 and 19 on can we raise prices." Alvin Johnson's name and cable address, as well as an address...


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pp. 195-206
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Archived 2005
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