[OPE-L:5751] classical/neoclassical

David Laibman (DLaibman@brooklyn.cuny.edu)
Mon, 24 Nov 97 17:26:00 EST

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Further, in response to Fred's student's query re terminology.
Whatever the earliest uses, I think the term "neoclassical" came into
widespread use following Samuelson's coinage, "neoclassical synthesis," from
the 1940s. At issue was bringing to an end the war between Keynes and his
free-market precursors, in the interests of bourgeois harmony (an oxymoron?).
Now the "classical" part of "neoclassical" here follows Keynes' own usage, in
which he described everyone prior to himself as classical (!), including the
latter-day marginalist equilibrium theorists Marshall, Pigou, etc. So on
this reading Keynes is the megalomaniacal culprit. His "solecism" (as he
called it) has saddled us with a situation in which "classical" -- when used
to refer to the "magnificent dynamics" of Smith, Ricardo and (in some sense
at least) Marx -- seems to be the opposite of the static, marginalist
ontological equilibrium vision of free-market theory post-1870 referred to as
"neoclassical," even though the two terms sound as though they are describing
similar things.

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David Laibman dlaibman@brooklyn.cuny.edu

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