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Joan Robinson's disillusion with economics


  • Alex Millmow


In her last public comments on the state of economics, Joan Robinson made some extraordinary remarks that conveyed profound pessimism and theoretical nihilism. To account for the bleakness of Robinson's later views on economics and economic policy this article examines her last decade. These years were marked by an array of reverses to the causes she espoused. While ill health and a propensity to be provocative coloured her disposition, her comment about economic theory disintegrating in her hands was not made casually; it was, rather, an acknowledgement that her project to integrate Keynes with the classical surplus theory had failed. This acknowledgement crystallised into her rejection of the long-period equilibrium interpretation of Keynes's theory of unemployment. At the end of her life Robinson was willing only to embrace the more traditional short-period Keynesian model grounded in uncertainty and expectations.

Suggested Citation

  • Alex Millmow, 2003. "Joan Robinson's disillusion with economics," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 15(4), pages 561-574.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:revpoe:v:15:y:2003:i:4:p:561-574 DOI: 10.1080/0953825032000121487

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Garegnani, Pierangelo, 1979. "Notes on Consumption, Investment and Effective Demand: A Reply to Joan Robinson," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 3(2), pages 181-187, June.
    2. Robinson, Joan, 1979. "Garegnani on Effective Demand," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 3(2), pages 179-180, June.
    3. Robinson, Joan, 1972. "The Second Crisis of Economic Theory," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(2), pages 1-10, May.
    4. Eichner, Alfred S & Kregel, J A, 1975. "An Essay on Post-Keynesian Theory: A New Paradigm in Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 13(4), pages 1293-1314, December.
    5. Paul A. Samuelson, 1975. "Steady-State and Transient Relations: A Reply on Reswitching," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 89(1), pages 40-47.
    6. J. E. King & Alex Millmow, 2003. "Death of a Revolutionary Textbook," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 35(1), pages 105-134, Spring.
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