An Error in the Interpretation of Sraffa's 'Standard Commodity'

16 Pages Posted: 27 Sep 2005

Date Written: November 2005


Piero Sraffa's masterpiece, The Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities, is written in a remarkably terse style and presents many problems of interpretation and understanding. The role of the Standard commodity in Sraffa's work is one contentious area in interpretations. This paper shows that M. Reder made mathematical errors on this topic in an early review of Sraffa's book. Mark Blaug took up one of these errors and inserted it in successive editions of his well-known textbook on the history of economic thought and in a New Palgrave entry. Heinz D. Kurz and Neri Salvadori point out this error in an exercise in their textbook on the theory of production and in a later paper. Finally, this paper points out Blaug's recent acknowledgement of this error, leading to the likelihood of its removal from at least his textbook in future editions. Nearly half a century after the publication of Sraffa's book, the error described in this paper might be removed from the textbook containing it.

Keywords: History of Microeconomics, Sraffian Economics

JEL Classification: B21, B51

Suggested Citation

Vienneau, Robert L., An Error in the Interpretation of Sraffa's 'Standard Commodity' (November 2005). Available at SSRN: or

Robert L. Vienneau (Contact Author)

Independent ( email )

209 Maple Street
Rome, NY 13440
315-336-5417 (Phone)
315-334-4964 (Fax)

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