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On a turning point in Sraffa's theoretical and interpretative position in the late 1920s


  • Pierangelo Garegnani


Sraffa's notes titled 'Summer 1927' (D3/12/3, Trinity Catalogue) presumably written while preparing for the lectures on the theory of value he intended to hold in Cambridge that autumn, when examined jointly with the lectures in fact delivered in 1928-31 and other manuscripts from the period make it possible to identify an important change occurring in those months in his theoretical position and in his interpretation of Ricardo and the Classical economists. From his previous acceptance of Marshall's apparatus of demand and supply once purged of the subjective elements of utility and 'efforts and sacrifices', Sraffa moved on to a theory of relative prices and distribution based on what he then called 'physical real costs' (in opposition to Marshall's subjective 'real costs') and to the consequent conception of a 'surplus product' providing for profits and rent. It is the theory which Sraffa recognized then to be that of Smith and Ricardo and the 'old classical economists', beyond the Marshallian interpretation of those authors he had previously shared, in terms of constant returns and, therefore, of the demand and supply apparatus. That is the interpretation that will emerge twenty years later in the Introduction to Ricardo's Principles (1951), just as that is essentially the theory we shall find in Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities thirty years later.

Suggested Citation

  • Pierangelo Garegnani, 2005. "On a turning point in Sraffa's theoretical and interpretative position in the late 1920s," The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(3), pages 453-492.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:eujhet:v:12:y:2005:i:3:p:453-492
    DOI: 10.1080/09672560500240099

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Pierangelo Garegnani, 2002. "Misunderstanding Classical Economics? A Reply to Blaug," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 34(1), pages 241-254, Spring.
    2. Pier Luigi Porta, 1986. "Understanding the Significance of Piero Sraffa's Standard Commodity: A Note on the Marxian Notion of Surplus," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 18(3), pages 443-454, Fall.
    3. Pier Luigi Porta, 2000. "Sraffa’s Ricardo after Fifty Years - A Preliminary Estimate," Working Papers 26, University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Economics, revised Aug 2000.
    4. Heinz Kurz & Neri Salvadori, 2005. "Representing the production and circulation of commodities in material terms: On Sraffa's objectivism," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 17(3), pages 413-441.
    5. Christian Gehrke & Heinz D. Kurz, 2006. "Sraffa on von Bortkiewicz: Reconstructing the Classical Theory of Value and Distribution," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 38(1), pages 91-149, Spring.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sinha, Ajit & Dupertuis, Michel-Stéphane, 2009. "Sraffa's system: Equal rate of profits and the notion of center of gravitation," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 495-501, August.


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