Keynes and the Bastards

Roger Odisio rodisio at
Sat Aug 7 17:35:01 PDT 1999

Michael Perelman wrote:

> Regarding Doug's note on Blaug, Keynes, like Hegel [I am out of my league
> here, but that was my superfical understanding], was not fully aware of the
> revolutionary implications of his ideas.

No question that followers, beginning with Robinson and Schackle, took Keynes' writings to places he didn't go, and probably didn't want to go. That is one thing I meant when I said Keynes "blurted out" that probably social control of investment was necessary to deal with the disequilibria he analysed. As far as I know he never followed up on that point. But I doubt it was because he didn't understand its implications. Things improved after WWII; capitalism looked more stable as it rebuilt its productive base. And he wasn't antagonistic to capitalism; he didn't *want* to pursue such a revolutionary thought.

>The Post Keynesians take that part
>of Keynes that is damning to conventional theory, although they, as Doug says, are
>not always antagonistic to capitalism itself.

The main reason Keynes wrote the General Theory was to "damn conventional theory" by showing it was but a special case, requiring restrictive and unrealistic assumptions, and thus unable to provide any real insight, particularly concerning the severe problems of the 30s. So post Keynesians, including Robinson, haven't simply taken some part of Keynes, but have used his central critique, the very purpose for which he wrote the book. And, as I said, expanded on it.

> Joan Robinson was aware the Keynes' theory undermined the case for capitalism
> and saw his work as a stronger critique than Marx's.
> The Bastards wanted to put the genie back in the bottle and make Keynes
> conventional.
> All three contradictory approaches were faithful to parts of Keynes -- a snob
> who seemed to enjoy occupying the upper reaches of British society.

Likewise, it won't do to imply an equivalence here (if that's what you meant, Michael) --each group merely taking a part of Keynes--as if neither which part, nor what is done with it, matters. As you indicate above, the object of the bastards was to stuff a few new Keynesian bells and whistles into their existing static equilbria, in their continued apologia for capitalism.

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