Great Economists Since Petty and Boisguilbert
Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz
Chapter 85: Edward Hastings Chamberlin (1899–1967)
Edward Hastings Chamberlin was an American economist. He was born in La Conner, Washington, on 18 May 1899, and died in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on 16 July 1967. His book, The Theory of Monopolistic Competition, and Joan Robinson’s The Theory of Imperfect Competition, both published in 1933, are unanimously acknowledged as the two path-breaking contributions that paved the way to the (so-called) imperfect/ monopolistic competition revolution, whose basic aim was freeing economic analysis from the straitjacket of perfect competition theory. Insomuch as it was presented as a revolution in microeconomic theory – on a par with the almost contemporaneous Keynesian revolution in macroeconomic theory – the monopolistic competition literature of the 1930s–1950s was a revolution that failed to dethrone perfect competition from its privileged status within economics (Tsoulfidis 2009). Yet, taking the clue from Dixit and Stiglitz (1977), a second wave of monopolistic competition literature has blossomed with much more profound impact on various quarters of economic analysis such as international trade, macroeconomics, growth theory and economic geography (Brakman and Hijdra 2004). While Joan Robinson soon lost any interest in the subject, Chamberlin devoted his entire intellectual life to (1) report and rectify (what he considered to be) “misconceptions” of his own theory and (2) differentiate his own contribution from that of his Cambridge (UK) counterpart. At least on this latter point, his efforts were largely ineffective: Kaldor’s scathing remark – “Professor Chamberlin has fallen a victim to the general tendency among producers in an imperfectly competitive market – a tendency he so convincingly...
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