European Contributions and Concepts
New Horizons in Institutional and Evolutionary Economics series
Edited by Jürgen G. Backhaus
Chapter 3: Some evolutionary features in John Hobson's economic analysis
3. Some evolutionary features in John Hobson’s economic analysis Stéphane Ngo Mai and Richard Aréna INTRODUCTION The assessment, throughout the last century, of John Hobson’s contribution to economic analysis has been a rather controversial issue. For some commentators Hobson’s economic analysis is nothing more than muddled thinking. This position was quite widespread in England during the heyday of Marshallian supremacy and indeed blocked Hobson’s academic appointment.1 His analytical ‘heresies’, such as the underconsumption/oversaving thesis or the marginal productivity critique, led many economists to regard him much as trade unionists regard a blackleg, or at best as a mere crank.2 These negative judgments have probably overinfluenced further academic commentators. Without any kind of demonstration, J. Schumpeter, for instance, is very abrupt: . . . the possibility that owing to his inadequate training, many of his propositions, especially his criticisms, might be provably wrong and due to nothing more but failure to understand, never entered his head, however often it was pointed out to him.3 This creed sharply contrasts with the tribute that J.M. Keynes paid to Hobson. Indeed seven pages of Chapter 23 of the General Theory are dedicated to a comment on Hobson and Mummery, early work the Physiology of Industry. Then J.M. Keynes, himself, contributed to the belief that Hobson was one of his few forerunners and modern commentators have tried to reassess this influence.4 In the same line of thinking, the economic analysis of Hobson has sometimes been presented as an ancestor of Harrod and Domar growth models. Indeed,...
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