IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

The Man From The Moon: Sraffa'S Upside-Down Approach To The Theory Of Value

Listed author(s):
  • Giorgio Gilibert
Registered author(s):

    By the end of 1927, Sraffa, not yet in his thirties, showed Keynes a system of three linear and homogeneous equations to determine prices in an economy without surplus. We now know that these "first equations" were to be the starting point for his future (1960) book. Considered as such, this elementary system can hardly be considered as particularly impressive. Indeed, it could be viewed as a rather trivial set of accounting identities. Keynes's reaction is therefore surprising: "It is very interesting and original-- he wrote to his wife Lydia--but I wonder if his class will understand it when he lectures". In the present paper, it is suggested that Keynes's enthusiastic approval of the equations relied on their being the outcome of a totally new theoretical approach to the problem of value. With the aid of the Sraffa Papers, preserved in the Wren Library, this approach is shown to be a most unusual one, so unusual as to be hardly intelligible and acceptable even for the "advanced" students for which Sraffa's lectures were intended. Moreover, if we adopt this new approach, a remarkable consequence becomes evident. This is that the vexed question of variable or constant returns becomes irrelevant--as Sraffa always maintained. The St [andard] Syst [em] provides tangible evidence of the rate of profits as a non-price phenomenon. A Dividend could be declared before knowing what is the price of the company's product. P. Sraffa, Slogans not used (D3/12/43)-super-1 Copyright 2006, Oxford University Press.

    To our knowledge, this item is not available for download. To find whether it is available, there are three options:
    1. Check below under "Related research" whether another version of this item is available online.
    2. Check on the provider's web page whether it is in fact available.
    3. Perform a search for a similarly titled item that would be available.

    Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal Contributions to Political Economy.

    Volume (Year): 25 (2006)
    Issue (Month): 1 (August)
    Pages: 35-48

    in new window

    Handle: RePEc:oup:copoec:v:25:y:2006:i:1:p:35-48
    Contact details of provider: Postal:
    Oxford University Press, Great Clarendon Street, Oxford OX2 6DP, UK

    Fax: 01865 267 985
    Web page:

    Order Information: Web:

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:oup:copoec:v:25:y:2006:i:1:p:35-48. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Oxford University Press)

    or (Christopher F. Baum)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.