[OPE-L:4449] Re: Sraffa: a Marxist economist?

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Wed, 19 Mar 1997 15:02:23 -0800 (PST)

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Riccardo wrote in [OPE-L:4446]:

> There are no doubts that Sraffa saw himself as developing Marx's critique
> of political economy. <snip>
> Two warnings: it is difficult to speak of Sraffa on these issues because he
> didn't wanted to speak openly; <snip>

Whether or not Sraffa _wanted_ to speak openly on these issues is
speculative. What we do know is that he didn't. I think, therefore, that
the claim that "there are no doubts" is speculative as well.

Clearly, Sraffa saw himself in the tradition of classical political
economy, especially Ricardo. That doesn't make him any more a Marxist than
Bortkiewicz or Dimitriev.

It is _possible_ that Sraffa didn't want to state his politics and theory
openly. Yet, the atmosphere at Cambridge was in no way comparable to,
say, the conditions under which Marxists had to write circumspectly in
pre-revolutionary Russia to be able to get their writings past the Czar's
censors. Indeed, when Dobb and even Robinson called themselves Marxians at
Cambridge one would think that Sraffa, who was by then a tenured faculty
member, would have called himself a Marxian if he believed that he was
writing within that tradition. Indeed, during the 1970's being a "Marxian"
at Cambridge might have even been considered to be radical-chic. Yet,
there is not even a single example that I know of where Sraffa referred to
himself as a Marxian in any of his unpublished letters, his lectures, or
even informal conversations with others. In my mind, that suggests that
there can indeed be a very large doubt.

In solidarity, Jerry