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Evolutionary Economic Thought

European Contributions and Concepts

Edited by Jürgen G. Backhaus

Evolutionary Economic Thought explores the theoretical roots of the evolutionary approach, and in so doing, demonstrates how it fits squarely into the theoretical mainstream. Focusing on the institutions of evolutionary change and the processes – such as competition – that generate change, this book takes account of important European contributions to the discipline, hitherto overshadowed by the American paradigm. As such, the book serves to broaden the current discourse. Whilst evolutionary economics itself is a well-researched and widely documented field, this book will be credited with establishing a history of evolutionary economic thought.
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Chapter 3: Some evolutionary features in John Hobson's economic analysis

Stéphane Ngo Mai and Richard Aréna


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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