Economic Philosophy  book cover
1st Edition

Economic Philosophy

  • Available for pre-order. Item will ship after March 14, 2021
ISBN 9780367540876
March 14, 2021 Forthcoming by Routledge
192 Pages

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Book Description

Joan Robinson (1903-1983) was one of the greatest economists of the twentieth century and a fearless critic of free-market capitalism. A major figure in the controversial ‘Cambridge School’ of economics in the post-war period, she made fundamental contributions to the economics of international trade and development.

In Economic Philosophy Robinson looks behind the curtain of economics to reveal a constant battle between economics as a science and economics as ideology, which she argued was integral to economics. In her customary vivid and pellucid style, she criticizes early economists Adam Smith and David Ricardo, and neo-classical economists Alfred Marshall, Stanley Jevons and Leon Walras, over the question of value. She shows that what they respectively considered to be the generators of value - labour-time, marginal utility or preferences - are not scientific but ‘metaphysical’, and that it is frequently in ideology, not science, that we find the reason for the rejection of economic theories. She also weighs up the implications of the Keynesian revolution in economics, particularly whether Keynes’s theories are applicable to developing economies. Robinson concludes with a prophetic lesson that resonates in today’s turbulent and unequal economy: that the task of the economist is to combat the idea that the only values that count are those that can be measured in terms of money.

This Routledge Classics edition includes a new foreword by Sheila Dow.

Table of Contents

Foreword to the Routledge Classics Edition Sheila Dow

1. Metaphysics, Morals and Science

2. The Classics: Value

3. The Neo-Classics: Utility

4. The Keynesian Revolution

5. Development and Under-Development

6. What are the Rules of the Game?


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Joan Robinson was born in 1903 in Camberley, England. She taught economics at Cambridge from 1931 to 1971, becoming a full professor in 1965. In 1979 she became the first woman to be made an honorary fellow of King’s College. Although she never won the Nobel Prize for Economics, economists across the political spectrum thought she deserved that level of recognition. Robinson established her reputation in 1933 with the publication of The Economics of Imperfect Competition (2nd ed. 1969), in which she coined the term ‘monopsony’, a market situation where there is only one buyer. In addition to teaching Keynesian theory, Robinson wrote several books, study guides, and pamphlets designed to introduce economic theory to the non-specialist. In the early 1940s she began introducing aspects of Marxist economics in books such as An Essay on Marxian Economics (1942; 2nd ed. 1966) and Marx, Marshall, and Keynes (1955). As Robinson aged her left-wing sympathies grew, and ultimately she became an admirer of Mao Zedong’s China and Kim Il Sung’s North Korea, making several trips to China. She died in 1983.


"Not just a great woman economist, Joan Robinson was a brilliant public intellectual – something rarely produced by contemporary British economics." - The Guardian

"One of the greatest economic theorists of our time—and probably the greatest woman economist ever." - The New York Times