The General Theory and Keynes for the 21st Century
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The General Theory and Keynes for the 21st Century

Edited by Sheila Dow, Jesper Jespersen and Geoff Tily

This book is devoted to the lasting impact of The General Theory (and Keynes’s thought) on macroeconomic theory, methodology and its relevance for understanding the post-crisis challenges of the 21st Century. A number of contributions take their departure from Keynes's presentation during the 1930's of his new macroeconomic understanding and its policy implications. Other chapters take a more pluralistic view of Keynes's ideas and their importance for contemporary debates. Further, it is demonstrated that many textbooks often misrepresent The General Theory and therefore cannot be a reliable guide to 21st Century economic policy.
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Chapter 4: The attacks on The General Theory: how Keynes’s theory was lost

G.C. Harcourt, Peter Kriesler and J.W. Nevile


The General Theory showed that the main determinant of the level of output and of employment at any point of time was the level of effective demand. It did so in an environment of uncertainty using analysis in historical time. Unfortunately, most of Keynes’s insights were soon lost to the profession. This chapter considers why this occurred. The most concerted and sustained attack on Keynes’s position was by Milton Friedman. Friedman argued that his work on permanent income as the major determinant of consumption invalidated Keynes’s use of the consumption function in The General Theory, with important implications for the multiplier and the efficacy of fiscal policy. The attack by the conservative right wing in America on Lorie Tarshis’s excellent 1947 Keynesian textbook also played an important part in the dilution of the Keynesian message as did the resultant rise to dominance of Samuelson’s Economics: An Introductory Analysis. Given the great influence of Samuelson and the increasing tendency of American economics to dominate English language economics, this contributed decisively to the undermining of Keynes’s theory and policy.

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