Keynes’s General Theory
If one were to isolate from the many interpretations of Keynes’s General Theory those that might be said to have dominated the discipline, including the writings of his theoretical adversaries and his advocates, one characteristic feature would be present in all of them. This is the idea that the General Theory is an examination of the disequilibrium behavior of a market system. Of course, to its proponents, the General Theory not only provides what the classical economists or Marshall might have referred to as an analysis of the temporary effects of particular changes; it also offers a rationale for viewing these changes as of paramount importance in how we conduct our daily lives. The General Theory, it is sometimes said, draws our attention to the fact that the underlying forces working toward the establishment of equilibrium, while ever present, are often only weakly felt. The simple and appealing notion behind this view is that a market economy may become stuck, so to speak, in a situation where certain frictions and rigidities (sometimes of formidable dimensions) prevent the more persistent forces from producing their permanent effects. At the risk of some oversimplification, one may classify those readings of the General Theory that view its concern with disequilibrium as falling within the compass of received opinion. One consequence of received opinion has been that debate over the significance of the book is frequently played out in the arenas of empirical argument and practical affairs.