Edited by Heinz D. Kurz, Tamotsu Nishizawa and Keith Tribe
Chapter 9: The Diffusion of Economic Ideas: Lionel Robbins in Italy and Japan
Atsushi Komine and Fabio Masini1 9.1 INTRODUCTION In a famous article on the international transmission of culture, Joseph J. Spengler (1970, 133) complained that: ‘historians of ideas have devoted little attention to the social processes underlying the transmission of ideas from culture to culture and from nation to nation’. Since then, Colander and Coats (1989) have pioneered a series of books and papers enquiring into several aspects concerning what they called ‘the dissemination of economic ideas’. As products or services, economic ideas can in fact be studied as the output of a production process, where several ingredients are needed. Specific events or urgent policy decisions may stimulate intellectual debate; the institutional and political environment can ease, postpone or provide incentives for specific productions. And ingredients, by-products or final products may come from or move to production processes which take place somewhere else. Sometimes, as with material goods, a culture can undergo a process of import substitution, and in those cases the attempt to hinder the diffusion of particular ideas deemed dangerous to the domestic dominating paradigm can have a major impact on the reception of foreign debates. This usually happens under established totalitarian regimes. This was the situation of Italy and Japan between the two World Wars. But the degree of ‘openness’ of these countries differed. In 1949 Kanetaro Nomura, in A History of Japanese Economic Theory, underlined the enormous importance of the ‘import and assimilation of foreign economics’. But as one of his reviewer stressed, he had a negative...
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