[OPE-L:4477] Re: Sraffa: a Marxist economist?

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Fri, 21 Mar 1997 06:05:02 -0800 (PST)

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(1) Re Alan's [4469]: I agree with much of what you wrote, but it didn't
address the question I raised.

(2) Re Ajit's [4473]: You suggest that I am "asking the wrong questions."
Perhaps. Yet, it remains a legitimate question to ask (as are the
questions you raise in your post).

(3) Re Riccardo's [4471-72]:

> I think it is clear from informal conversations and unpublished
> writings he thought to be a follower of Marx. <snip>
> P.S.: the documentary evidence is in Cambridge, UK

You could be correct, but I note:

(a) In the Potier biography, which addressed in detail Sraffa's political
activities and his relationship with Gramsci, there is nowhere the
suggestion that Sraffa considered himself to be a Marxist.

(b) In the autobiographical recollections of Nicholas Kaldor, Sidney
Weintraub, Joseph Steindl, and Giovanni Demaria we nowhere read the
suggestion that Sraffa considered himself to be a Marxist. Moreover, in no
published reference to Sraffa that I am aware of do we read the claim that
Sraffa claimed to be a Marxist.

(c) Samuelson's claim that he realized that Sraffa was a Marxist after a
short time talking to him is not credible since Samuelson displayed very
little understanding of what Marx wrote or the nature of Marxism (as is
evidenced by his atrocious "appendix" in the older editions of _Economics_
from the 1970's) and since Samuelson didn't claim that Sraffa _himself_
said he was a Marxist. Also. it would have served Samuelson's purposes
well to paint Sraffa as a Marxist since, in the context of the
conservative American Economics Association at the time, such a
characterization would help to establish the "radical" and "extremist"
perspectives of the Cambridge (UK) economists.

(d) What would be the _reason_ why Sraffa wouldn't refer to himself as a
Marxist? In the McCarthy period in the US, this would be understandable.
Yet, let's recall that Sraffa lived until 1983 and the prejudice against
(and possible retaliation against) Marxists -- especially at Cambridge --
was much diminished.

In solidarity, Jerry


J.A. Kregel ed. _Recollections of Eminent Economists_, Volume 1, New York,
New York University Press, 1989