Full text: Expansion, Stagnation und Demokratie - 1982 Heft 2 (2)

Spring Cleaning
Joan Robinson
I am one of the few survivors of the generation that learned economic
theory before the Keynesian revolution. Alfred Marshall was the over-
mastering influence on teaching in the English-speaking world. There
were many disputed points within the Marshallian canon, such as the
meaning of the "representative firm", but other schools -Walras, Pareto,
the Austrians - were dismissed in footnotes. We used to say in
Cambridge "Everything is in Marshall". I added later: the trouble is that
everything eise is as well.
The general practical moral of Marshallian teaching was the defense
of laisser faire. Interference with the "free play of market forces",
however well meant, will do more harm than good. Thus the devastating
unemployment of the 1930s and Keynes' plea to do something about it
created a confrontation.
Everything is in Marshall. The most coherent and useable part of
Marshall's theory is the analysis of the Short Period. The short period is
not a length of time, but a Situation at a moment of time when
equipment and stocks of inputs in existence and the available labour
force provide for a potential supply of Output which may be less or more
fully utilised. Marshall, using his one at a time method, analysed this
question in terms of the fishing industry. Keynes adapted it to deal with
changes in the general level of effective demand in an industrial
economy.
The coverage of the General Theory, is narrow. It says very little about
international trade. The influence of the flow of investment on employ-
ment is a central topic but accumulation as a historical process is very
scrappily dealt with; the distribution of the flow of gross income
between wages and profits is discussed but the formation of an overall
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