[OPE-L:4421] Re: Sraffa: a Marxist economist?

Paul Zarembk (zarembka@acsu.buffalo.edu)
Tue, 18 Mar 1997 05:32:59 -0800 (PST)

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Missing by one year the 20th century, Lenin's THE DEVELOPMENT OF
CAPITALISM IN RUSSIA would be here or at the top of my list of Marxist
economics works of the past 100 years. Paul

Paul Zarembka, supporting the RESEARCH IN POLITICAL ECONOMY Web site at
http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/PZarembka, and using OS/2 Warp.

On Tue, 18 Mar 1997, Gerald Levy wrote:

> Ajit wrote in [OPE-L:4419]:
> > In any
> > case, for your information, Sraffa was a Marxist! The greatest Marxist
> > economist of the 20th century without any doubt.
> (1) Certainly Steedman and many others from the "surplus approach" school
> consider themselves to be Marxists, but I don't see any convincing evidence
> that Sraffa himself considered himself to be a Marxist. He never said that
> he was as far as I know (although he was a friend of Gramsci and supported
> various campaigns organized by the Communist Party). If you read his
> writings (which after all, aren't that many), there is no indication that
> he was attempting to develop a Marxist analysis.
> (2) It's true that he was considered to be an expert on Marx at Cambridge
> and his _Production of commodities by means of commodities_ was praised by
> some Marxists such as Dobb and Meek. Yet, to be an "expert" on Marx back
> in the early 1930's at Cambridge was not saying a whole lot [see Potier:
> 51]. Also, his interest was more in the history of economic thought (and
> especially Ricardo) and critiquing marginalism. Further, he seems to have
> been largely unaware of a lot of the Marxist literature on political
> economy written during the 20's and 30's in continental Europe and
> elsewhere.
> (3) So I think that the claim that Sraffa was the "greatest Marxist
> economist of the twentieth century without any doubt" is, at best,
> hyperbole. The XX Century has, after all, seen many important
> contributions to Marxist political economy. What of all of the rest? I
> won't even bother here to list some of the important figures in Marxist
> economics in this century as the point I am making should be obvious. The
> foregoing should not be read to imply that one can not be a Marxist if one
> was heavily influenced by Sraffa, but that would get us into the whole
> murky question of what is Marxist and what is non-Marxist.
> In solidarity, Jerry
> Reference:
> ---------
> Jean-Pierre Potier _Piero Sraffa: Unorthodox Economist (1898-1983): a
> biographical essay_, London, Routledge, 1991