Saturday, May 7, 2016

Barkley Rosser — The Revenge Of Joan Robinson: Capital Theory Controversies Revive

It was just two years ago that Thomas Piketty's book, Capital, made the best seller lists. Right now considerable attention is being paid to Anwar Shaikh's voluminous magnum opus, Capitalism. Both of these books take as their central issue that of the underlying forces driving secular trends in income distribution, particularly the division between wage incomes and profit or interest-based incomes.

Curiously, Piketty's theory remains firmly in the neoclassical camp regarding the questions raised by the old Cambridge, England school. He notes those controversies, but more or less dismisses them, perhaps reflecting the influence of being at MIT for a long period of time, even as he mocks excessive mathematical abstraction of much of modern growth theory. Jamie Galbraith and others, including Shaikh, have taken Piketty to task for his dismissal of the issues raised by those old controversies,…
Shaikh is an old fan of Sraffa's and a participant in the original debates. While he also does not present most of his theory as drawing on these old arguments, his approach is much closer to it in flavor and atmosphere, even if he eventually draws more heavily on modern econophysics methods. These fit nicely into his more Marxist approach, even as he downplays Marx. But, of course, it was Marx who more sharply posed these questions regarding the nature of capital and how it affects income distribution, as well as power distribution, within societies.…
The Revenge Of Joan Robinson: Capital Theory Controversies Revive
J. Barkley Rosser | Professor of Economics and Business Administration James Madison University

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