Joan Robinson

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Joan Robinson

Joan Robinson ( Joan Violet Robinson , nee Maurice ) (born October 31, 1903 in Camberley , Surrey , England , † August 5, 1983 in Cambridge ) was a British economist who, with her extension of the theory of John Maynard Keynes, the post-Keynesian reconstruction the political economy initiated.

From Marshall to Keynes

When Robinson came to Cambridge in October 1921 , Alfred Marshall's Principles, the Bible, and other economists such as William Stanley Jevons , Cournot or Léon Walras or the Austrian and German theorists were completely unknown there. Marshall's work, however, contains a profound conflict between his static model of increasing returns to scale and the conclusions drawn from it, relating to an economy of increasing accumulation.

After her return to Cambridge in 1929, Piero Sraffa pointed out alternative doctrinal concepts in his lectures and pointed out the inconsistencies in Marshall, while Pigou sought to expand and defend Marshall's teaching. Inspired by Sraffa's article The Law of Returns under Competitive Conditions , Robinson developed a theory of incomplete competition. Her objective was to attack the internal logic of the static equilibrium model and the thesis that wages are determined by the marginal productivity of work.

After the Great Depression it was Keynes who launched an even stronger attack on equilibrium theory. In her Essays in the Theory of Employment (published 1937), Robinson seeks to apply the principles of Keynes' General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money to other areas: the labor market, full employment, open and covert unemployment, and the macroeconomic analysis of money wages and real wages. Although of uneven quality, these essays have already raised many of the critical questions Sidney Weintraub , Paul Davidson, and others later posed about so-called neoclassical synthesis . Michał Kalecki showed a solution comparable to Keynesian theory by reconciling incomplete competition with the analysis of effective demand. This laid the foundation for the so-called "Cambridge theory of distribution".

In the judgment of The Economist magazine , it was Joan Robinson who gave Keynes' economic theory a "left-wing tinge" in the public eye. Keynes himself had worked on a correction of his General Theory shortly before his death , as essential parts of it seemed problematic to him. After Keynes' untimely death, Robinson's reception of his work, which was strongly influenced by her reading of Marx, became the main interpretation.

Marx reading

In 1940 Robinson Karl Marx began to read, but drew different conclusions from it than, say, contemporary Marxists. With regard to labor theory of value, Robinson rates Marx's value form analysis as "purely dogmatic".

Only Kalecki had previously integrated Marx's scheme of extended reproduction with Keynesian analysis. Robinson, however, sought a long-term theory of employment that should be free from the dominance of equilibrium theory. The transformation problem , however, was for them nothing more than a mathematical puzzle, for finally Sraffa pointed out an approach; but nothing mattered about it. For them, the real problem of inconsistency between Volume I and Volume III of Das Kapital was the tendency that Marx asserted towards a long-term fall in the rate of profit , since this implied a tendency to increase real wages. However, Kalecki is of great help to Marxist economic theory.

Capital controversy and long term analysis

In response to the challenge from Roy Harrods Towards a Dynamic Economics , Robinson attempted to develop Keynes' theory into a long-term one. This required the analysis of profit rates. This question then arose: Does an amount of capital mean a list of machines, stocks of materials and means of subsistence - or does it mean an amount of money whose purchasing power depends on wage rates and prices? The question asked in this way initially triggered a great deal of incomprehension. One attempt to answer this was to describe capital goods as “putty, jelly, steel, leets or ectoplasm”, in other words as “malleable”. Basically, however, the dispute was not about the question of measuring capital , but about the reconstruction of the pre-Keynesian equilibrium, in which the accumulation of the means of production is determined by the social propensity to save. Then full employment is guaranteed by real wages in which the given stock of capital goods is distributed among the available labor by a corresponding change in capital intensity.

Golden Age

The "Golden Age" is a long-term growth model that was developed by Robinson in 1956 in her work The Accumulation of Capital . In contrast to most growth models, this was only formulated verbally. This “golden age” is determined by a continuous growth rate, the speed of which is determined by technical progress and the increase in the workforce. The real wage level increases with the productivity per employee. Technical progress is neutral and constant, the competitive mechanism is fully effective, and the rate of profit is uniform across all markets and constant over the long term. This model is very reminiscent of the neoclassical growth model developed by Robert M. Solow , which was also published in 1956.

1958 Robinson was elected a member ( Fellow ) of the British Academy . In 1964 she was admitted to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 1983 to the American Philosophical Society .


Her father was General Frederick Maurice . In 1925 she married her colleague Austin Robinson (1897-1993). The marriage resulted in two daughters.


  • The economics of imperfect competition. Macmillan, London 1933
  • An Essay on Marxian Economics. 1942; 2nd edition, London 1962
    • Basic problems of Marx's economy. Publishing house of the Austrian Federation of Trade Unions, Vienna 1951; Metropolis, Marburg 1987, ISBN 3-926570-02-4
  • with Nicholas Kaldor , AA Evans, EF Schumacher & P. Lamartine Yates: Planning for abundance. National Peace Council, 1943
    • Paths to Prosperity. Economic issues and reconstruction plans. Staufen-Verlag, Cologne / Krefeld 1948
  • The Accumulation of Capital. 1956; 3rd edition 1969
    • The accumulation of capital. Europa-Verlag, Vienna 1965; Ullstein, Frankfurt / Berlin / Vienna 1972, ISBN 3-548-02862-4
  • Economic Philosophy: An essay on the progress of economic thought. London 1962; Aldine Publisher, 2006, ISBN 0202309088
    • Doctrines of Economics. An examination of their basic ideas and ideologies. Beck, Munich 1965; 3rd edition, ibid. 1972, ISBN 3-406-03433-0
  • Beyond Keynes. Selected economic essays. Europa-Verlag, Vienna / Frankfurt / Zurich 1965
  • Small writings on economics. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt 1968
  • The fatal political economy. European Publishing House, Frankfurt 1968; Bund-Verlag, Cologne 1979, ISBN 3-7663-0266-3
  • Freedom and necessity: an introduction to the study of society. London 1970
    • Society as an economic society. Basics and development. Beck, Munich 1971, ISBN 3-406-02482-3
  • Economic heresies: Some Old-Fashioned Questions in Economic Theory. Basic Books, New York 1971
    • Economic theory as ideology. About some old-fashioned questions in economic theory. Athenäum-Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Frankfurt 1974, ISBN 3-8072-5015-8 ; European Publishing House , Frankfurt 1980, ISBN 3-434-25113-8
  • with John Eatwell: An introduction to modern economics. 1973
    • Introduction to Economics. Verlag Moderne Industrie, Munich 1974; Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Frankfurt 1977, ISBN 3-596-26373-5


  • Bill Gibson (Ed.): Joan Robinson's Economics: A Centennial Celebration. Edward Elgar Publishing, 2005.
  • Karl Dietrich: Joan Robinsons "Golden Age". In: Post-Keynesianism. Economic theory in the tradition of Keynes, Kalecki and Sraffa. With contributions by Karl Dietrich, Hubert Hoffmann, Jürgen Kromphardt, Karl Kühne, Heinz D. Kurz, Hajo Riese & Bertram Schefold. Metropolis, Marburg 1987, ISBN 3-926570-00-8 . Pp. 71-84.
  • Sabine Reiner: What is political about political economy? Joan Robinson's Contributions to the Politicization of Economic Theory. Nomos-Verlagsgesellschaft, Baden-Baden 1998, ISBN 3-7890-5440-2

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Economic Journal. December 1926
  2. ^ John E. King: The first post Keynesian: Joan Robinson's Essays in the Theory of Employment (1937). In: Philip Arestis (Ed.): Employment, Economic Growth and the Tyranny of the Market. Essays in Honor of Paul Davidson: Volume Two. Edgar Elgar, Cheltenham 1996, ISBN 1-85898-313-4 , p. 165.
  3. ^ A Keynes for all seasons The Economist , Nov. 26, 2013
  4. Wolfgang Müller: Habermas and the applicability of the labor theory of value. In: Socialist Politics. 1. Vol. 1, April 1969, p. 39ff.
  5. ^ Joan Robinson: The Accumulation of Capital. P. 199.
  6. ^ Karl Dietrich: Joan Robinsons "Golden Age". In: Post-Keynesianism. Economic theory in the tradition of Keynes, Kalecki and Sraffa. Metropolis, Marburg 1987, ISBN 3-926570-00-8 , p. 71 f.
  7. ^ Deceased Fellows. British Academy, accessed July 25, 2020 .
  8. ^ Member History: Joan Violet Robinson. American Philosophical Society, accessed January 25, 2019 .