Here’s To You, Mrs. Robinson

13 November 2006 at 10:53 am 4 comments

| Peter Klein |

I’m not a great fan of Joan Robinson but believe she has admirers among the O&M clientèle. So here’s a pointer to a new book on Robinson’s work and significance, Joan Robinson’s Economics: A Centennial Celebration (Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2005). The volume, edited by Bill Gibson, stems from a 2003 conference on the centenary of Robinson’s birth. This passage from Michael Lawlor’s review in EH.Net may spark some interest:

One thing she particularly saw as useful in Marshall was his awareness of the difficulty of treating time by equilibrium constructs. Thus, rather than the highly artificial dynamic equilibria of modern theories of growth (of any stripe), she wanted dynamic economics to be “open” to uncertain expectations, technological change, habits, and the possible irreversibility that came with the “choice of technique.” In other words, she insisted that a theory of economic growth should be alive to the kinds of issues that, economic history teaches, have been real aspects of capitalist economies of the past. . . . She did not want to construct models that would reach the same “equilibrium” from radically different starting points, but ones that depended crucially on where a system began to determine part of where it ends up. In short, she wished for a dynamic economics in which a particular set of institutions and a particular history ought to be given its due as a factor that could influence the time path of an economy.

But as Donald Harris particularly emphasizes, this is no easy task. In fact one could say that her long struggle with a variety of complex approaches to such questions in the theory of economic growth (her most mature statements on this topic are to be found in Robinson, 1956 and 1962b) ended in her rejecting “equilibrium” altogether as a way to capture the manifold influences of “history” (Robinson, 1985).

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Evolutionary Economics, Theory of the Firm.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Donald A. Coffin  |  13 November 2006 at 1:25 pm

    I just looked for that book on Amazon–$145 for a 400 page book! More than $0.35 per page! Edward Elgar (the publisher) must think the demand curve is NOT price-elastic for price declines.

  • 2. Peter Klein  |  13 November 2006 at 6:04 pm

    I imagine that most buyers will be university libraries, not known for their highly elastic demands….

  • 3. Jung-Chin Shen  |  14 November 2006 at 3:26 am

    Or it is about the time to join this movement:

    Also, check out the most expensive economics journal in the world:
    US$ 6,999 for six issues a year!

  • 4. Donald A. Coffin  |  14 November 2006 at 12:10 pm

    Well, I know that Elgar is targeting libraries. I just think it’s maybe not the best strategy.

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