Handbook on the History of Economic Analysis Volume II

Handbook on the History of Economic Analysis Volume II

Schools of Thought in Economics

Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz

Volume II contains entries on the major schools of economic thought and analysis. These schools differ with regard to their 'vision' of the working of the economic system, the major forces and interactions that shape its path, and the policy recommendations proposed. At any moment of time, several such schools typically compete with one another, striving for dominance within the economic and political discourse. Each Handbook can be read individually and acts as a self-contained volume in its own right. It can be purchased separately or as part of a three-volume set.

Chapter 23: Cambridge School of economics

Maria Cristina Marcuzzo and Annalisa Rosselli

Subjects: economics and finance, history of economic thought


Even though references to the “Cambridge School” are frequent in history of economic thought literature, what this term designates is far from being univocal, being used sometimes in relation to Marshall and his disciples, sometimes to Keynes and his followers, sometimes to the approach to economics prevailing in Cambridge throughout the period spanning from the early days of the twentieth century to the 1970s, when Cambridge enjoyed international prestige as one of the leading centres of scientific investigation in economics. As in any other science, there is more than one definition of what it takes to constitute a school in economics. If we accept as the definition of school “an alliance of persons, a community of ideas, an acknowledged authority, and a combination in purpose, which banded them into a society apart” (Higgs 1897 [2001]: 7), then this would hold only for the first decades of the Cambridge School, when Marshall introduced the new degree in economics in 1903 and created a community of disciples that kept his teachings alive well after his death. They spread the ideas of the master as presented in his Principles of Economics (Marshall 1920), acknowledged his authority, shared the mission he set for economics and were perceived and perceived themselves as a group of scholars with a well-defined identity. Keynes himself, in his introduction to the Cambridge Handbooks in 1922, could speak of the authors contributing to this output as “orthodox members of the Cambridge School of economics” whose “ideas about the subject, and even [whose] prejudices, are traceable to the contact they have enjoyed with the writings and lectures of the two economists who have chiefly influenced Cambridge thought for the past fifty years, Dr. Marshall and Prof. Pigou” (Keynes 1971–89, hereafter CWK, XII: 857). The School included almost all the members of the Faculty of Economics and Politics, Claude William Guillebaud (1890–1971), Hubert Douglas Henderson (1890– 1952), Frederick Lavington (1881–1927), Gerald Frank Shove (1887–1947), Dennis Holme Robertson (1890–1963), Maurice Herbert Dobb (1900–76), and Edward Austin Grossage Robinson (1897–1993). When the term “school” is applied to the Keynes era and more so to the post-Keynes period, the above definition is more problematic. First there is the issue of whom should be included. Until Keynes’s death in 1946 the list would certainly have included Roy Forbes Harrod (1900–78), Richard Ferdinand Kahn (1905–89), Nicholas Kaldor (1908–86), Michal Kalecki (1899–1970), James Edward Meade (1907–95), Joan Violet Robinson (1903–83), Piero Sraffa (1898–1983) and Richard Nicholas Stone (1913–91), while for the post-war period the names of Wynne Godley (1926–2010), Richard Murphey Goodwin (1913–96), Geoffrey Colin Harcourt, Robin Marris (1924–2012), Luigi Pasinetti and Ajit Singh (1940–2015) are to be added. Secondly there is the issue of what exactly they shared and whether it is sufficiently broad to consider them a school.

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