Political Events and Economic Ideas
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Political Events and Economic Ideas

Edited by Ingo Barens, Volker Caspari and Bertram Schefold

The influence of political developments on the evolution of economic thought is the main theme behind this book. As the authors reveal throughout the book, history has shown many times that political events can trigger the formulation of new economic conceptions that in turn influence the future economic development of a country.
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Chapter 19: Harrod's Dynamics in the Making

Daniele Besomi


19. Harrod’s dynamics in the making Daniele Besomi* Traditional treatments and traditional solutions are being questioned, improved, and revised. In the end this activity of research should clear up controversy. But for the moment controversy and doubt are increased (Keynes, 1928). Economics with its ‘schools’ is still in the phase of quasi-scholastic, in which rivals can persist in their rivalry and mutual invective (Harrod to Knight, 7 July 1937 in Harrod, 2003, vol. 2, p. 708). When I was invited to give the Blanqui lecture it was understood that the topic would be centred around my book, The Making of Harrod’s Dynamics (Besomi, 1999b). Although I hope to be able to convey its essential thesis, I would also like to spend some time in describing what lay behind the book, and to give you further reflections generated by my recent work beyond that research. I begin from the beginning of the story. My research interest has always been the history of ‘formal’ economic dynamics.1 I was first struck by the singularity of Harrod’s notion of dynamics when comparing it with other definitions collected in Machlup’s essay on the semantics of statics and dynamics (Machlup, 1963). While most authors from the early 1930s onwards had adopted the definition of dynamics proposed by Ragnar Frisch, according to which a theory is dynamics if it explains, by means of functional equations, ‘how one situation grows out of the foregoing’ (Frisch, 1933, 1936), there seemed to be two major exceptions: Hicks,...

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