The Cambridge Controversies in Capital Theory: A Study in the Logic of Theory Development

The Cambridge Controversies in Capital Theory: A Study in the Logic of Theory Development

The Cambridge Controversies in Capital Theory: A Study in the Logic of Theory Development

The Cambridge Controversies in Capital Theory: A Study in the Logic of Theory Development

Excerpt

The Cambridge controversies in capital theory: a remote memory for ageing economists, a completely unknown episode for most of their junior colleagues. Yet quite a bit has been written about it in the past. So why another study? As far as I know, no full-scale methodological analysis of the debate exists. One is provided here. It is based on a detailed exposition of the moves and countermoves of the most important participants. That is necessary, because it is one of my theses that models and formal methods of analysis determined to a great extent the direction and the outcome of the debate. The internal dynamics of the scientific problem solving process were more important than global theoretical ideas or ideological convictions. The thesis can be generalized to the better part of modern theoretical economics (the demonstration would require a series of similar studies). The book is also partly historical. It shows that the controversy is characterized by a series of historical ironies, which the methodological analysis helps to explain. It also corrects a few commonly accepted ideas, one of which has to do with Sraffa's role.

Most of the text was finished a dozen or so years ago, while various bits and pieces have been published more recently. As far as I know, nothing that adds anything of substance to the debate itself or its historiography has been published since, and the same goes for the methodological apparatus I use and extend. Discussions with the late Athanasios Asimakopoulos, Pierangelo Garegnani, Geoffrey Harcourt, Paul Samuelson and Robert Solow provided me with factual information and insights that I would not have acquired otherwise. I want to thank these prominent economists for their kind cooperation. I would also like to thank Neil de Marchi, Rob de Vries, Bert Hamminga and Geert Woltjer. Financial support by the Dutch organization for scientific research NWO and by Royal Dutch Shell Company is gratefully acknowledged.

Trento, October 2001

Jack Birner

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