WHAT ARE THE QUESTIONS?
THE 1930s have been described as the years of high theory, but all the great mass of work that has been done since and the proliferation of academic economic teaching has been very little illuminated by the ideas that emerged at that time, and there are no consistent and accepted answers to the questions that were then raised.
One reason for this lack of progress is connected with the origin of the new ideas themselves. George Shackle1 treated 'high theory' as a purely intellectual movement, but in fact it arose out of the actual situation of the thirties -- the breakdown of the world market economy in the great slump. Kalecki, Keynes, and Myrdal were trying to find an explanation for unemployment; the exploration of imperfect and monopolistic competition set afoot by the challenge, from opposite directions, of Piero Sraffa2 and Allyn Young3 to the orthodox theory of value, though it proved to be a blind alley, arose from the observation that, in a general buyers' market, it could not be true that prices are equal to marginal costs. The movement of the thirties was an attempt to bring analysis to bear on actual problems. Discussion of an actual problem cannot avoid the question of what should be done about it; questions of policy involve politics (laisser faire is just as much a policy as any other). Politics involve ideology; there is no such thing as a 'purely economic' problem that can____________________
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Publication information: Book title: What Are the Questions?And Other Essays: Further Contributions to Modern Economics. Contributors: Joan Robinson - Author. Publisher: M. E. Sharpe. Place of publication: Armonk, NY. Publication year: 1981. Page number: 1.
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