An Analysis of Joan Robinson's Virulent Attacks on J. M. Keynes, the General Theory and the IS-LP(LM) Model: On the Need for Historians of Economic Thought to Remove Joan Robinson's Myths About Keynes from the Literature on Macroeconomics
42 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2017
Date Written: October 27, 2017
Joan Robinson was a self admitted, mathematically illiterate economist who had no idea about what Keynes was doing or saying in the period 1930-1936. She relied completely for her understanding of economics on her very close, personal relationship with R. Kahn. Kahn would explain and develop the ideas that he suggested to her into her published works. However, there is one article that Joan Robinson wrote herself without any input from Kahn. It is her 1953 article, titled “A Lecture Delivered at Oxford by a Cambridge Economist”. It represents a total, direct attack on J. M. Keynes and the General Theory.
Joan Robinson is the economist who started the myths that Keynes was a partial equilibrium, strictly Marshallian, anti formalist, who realized that formal, mathematical modeling was impossible. Such an analysis, done in the face of a pervasive, all encompassing, radical, fundamental, irreducible uncertainty, where no one could ever know anything about what was likely to happen in the future, as opposed to the neoclassical belief that everyone knew everything that could happen in the future, meant that no macroeconomic mathematical model building was possible. The foundation for her claims about Keynes and the General Theory rests completely on the type of rationale contained in a 1983 Journal of Economic Literature article by Gram –Walsh, where they express their belief that, since she worked directly with Keynes on the writing of the General Theory, then she therefore knew what Keynes really meant. The problem here is that a careful study of Volumes 13, 14, and 29 of the CWJMK provide no evidence at all that J.Robinson contributed even one sentence to the General Theory.
The Myths of Joan Robinson are part of the foundation for the recent history of macroeconomics published by de Vroey and de Vroey and Malgrange. However, it is quite easy to find hundreds of other such articles published over the last 70 odd years. This paper will examine several of these works and show that they are simply passing along Robinson’s myths that she made up about Keynes.
Keywords: Harrod, Hicks, IS-LM, Liquidity preference, Patinkin, chapter 15, pp.180-182 of GT, chapter 21, pp.297-303
JEL Classification: B10, B12, B14, B16, B20, B22
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation