Handbook on the History of Economic Analysis Volume I
Show Less

Handbook on the History of Economic Analysis Volume I

Great Economists Since Petty and Boisguilbert

Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz

Volume I contains original biographical profiles of many of the most important and influential economists from the seventeenth century to the present day. These inform the reader about their lives, works and impact on the further development of the discipline. The emphasis is on their lasting contributions to our understanding of the complex system known as the economy. The entries also shed light on the means and ways in which the functioning of this system can be improved and its dysfunction reduced. 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.
Buy Book in Print
Show Summary Details
You do not have access to this content

Chapter 92: Joan Violet Robinson (1903–1983)

Harvey Gram


For Joan Robinson, there was “no such thing as a ‘purely economic’ problem [to be] settled by purely economic logic; political interest and political prejudices are involved in every discussion of actual questions” (Robinson 1951–79, Collected Economic Papers, hereafter CEP, V: 1). Indeed, “the answers to economic problems are only political questions” (Robinson 1975: iv), rooted in morality and ethics. Besides the political, you find, throughout Robinson’s work, that the answers to economic questions are mired in epistemic ambiguities, the basis for her insistence on a distinction between history and equilibrium. An instinct for the ethical dimensions of economic problems is evident from the beginning. “Beauty and the beast” (CEP, I: 225–33), an undergraduate essay, reflecting a deep understanding of what she had learned from Marshall’s Principles (1920), ends in a “happy union of producer’s and consumer’s surplus”, but what sparks our interest is an ethical problem with a decidedly modern ring. [The] speculator who by intelligent foresight anticipates the future, and who makes his gains by shrewd purchases and sales, renders thereby a public service of no small importance, but when to a normal degree of foresight is added [the Beast’s] supernatural [inside] information, the speculator is in a position to enhance his own gains at the expense of less enlightened members of the community. Such malignant forms of speculation are a grievous hindrance to progress. (CEP, I: 230) Then there is the enduring moral question of what ought to be for sale. The father of the...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

Elgaronline requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals. Please login through your library system or with your personal username and password on the homepage.

Non-subscribers can freely search the site, view abstracts/ extracts and download selected front matter and introductory chapters for personal use.

Your library may not have purchased all subject areas. If you are authenticated and think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

Further information

or login to access all content.