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Sraffa's Early Philosophical Thinking


  • B. Davis John


This paper investigates a number of aspects of Piero Sraffa's early philosophical thinking by placing him within the historical materialist tradition of reasoning about the relation of ideas to the historical process. It first distinguishes Alfred Marshall's views about the historical development of ideas by addressing Marshall's responses to the criticisms of William Cunningham of the English Historical School. Marshall's concept of economics as a universal engine of discovery was rejected by Sraffa in his early writings. Sraffa's critique of Marshall is then argued to lead to two early philosophical commitments on Sraffa's part: that deductivist modes of explanation are inappropriate in economics and that economics aims to explain the underlying structures of causal interaction that had been the concern of the classical political economists. The paper closes with brief remarks on how Sraffa's later philosophical thinking might be approached.

Suggested Citation

  • B. Davis John, 1998. "Sraffa's Early Philosophical Thinking," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 10(4), pages 477-491.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:revpoe:v:10:y:1998:i:4:p:477-491
    DOI: 10.1080/09538259800000065

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    Cited by:

    1. Rodolfo Signorino, 2000. "Method and analysis in Piero Sraffa's 1925 critique of Marshallian economics," The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 7(4), pages 569-594.

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