Expectations and the Meaning of Institutions: Essays in Economics

By Ludwig Lachmann; Don Lavoie | Go to book overview

10

AUSTRIAN ECONOMICS UNDER FIRE

The Hayek-Sraffa duel in retrospect [1986]

INTRODUCTION

When the history of economic thought in the twentieth century comes to be written, there is no doubt that the decade of the 1930s will occupy a very special place in it. The 'Keynesian revolution', the rise of new theories of competition such as those of Chamberlin and Joan Robinson, the beginnings of growth theory in Harrod's work, all belong to this decade. Prominent thinkers of the century, such as Hicks and Shackle, published their first writings during it. The 1930s were indeed 'years of high theory'.

For Austrian economics, however, this was a tragic decade. Owing to the political circumstances of the time many Austrian philosophers and economists were compelled to leave Austria. Some of the emigrants were successful in the countries of their adoption, others were not. Professor Hayek, having made a triumphal entry into the University of London in 1931 as Tooke Professor of Economics and Statistics, had become a rather lonely figure by 1939, when the London School of Economics was evacuated from its London premises for the duration of the Second World War. The decline in the fortunes of Austrian economics is usually attributed to the Keynesian revolution and the success of the full employment policy in Nazi Germany, its historical background, which made even liberal economists cast furtive glances at what they otherwise professed to abhor.

In 1967, in The Hayek Story, Sir John Hicks wrote

When the definitive history of economic analysis during the nineteen-thirties comes to be written, a leading character in the drama (it was quite a drama) will be Professor Hayek.

-147-

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