The Elgar Companion to John Maynard Keynes
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The Elgar Companion to John Maynard Keynes

Edited by Robert W. Dimand and Harald Hagemann

The most influential and controversial economist of the twentieth century, John Maynard Keynes was the leading founder of modern macroeconomics, and was also an important historical figure as a critic of the Versailles Peace Treaty after World War I and an architect of the Bretton Woods international monetary system after World War II. This comprehensive Companion elucidates his contributions, his significance, his historical context and his continuing legacy.
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Chapter 14: Thomas Robert Malthus

Samuel Hollander


The representation of Malthus as prime inspiration of John Maynard Keynes is unconvincing. First, the Treatise on Money rejected Say’s law three years before the attention accorded Malthus for the Essays in Biography. Secondly, a concern with effective demand is apparent in lectures and correspondence early in 1932, again before the engagement with Malthus. Thirdly, Keynes’s essay accords the savings–investment relationship of the Treatise at least equal status with effective demand when interpreting Malthus on unemployment and depression, whereas the General Theory interprets the same Malthus texts solely in terms of effective demand. That Keynes’s approbation reflects his own theoretical stance – and the state of transition between stances – points distinctly away from Malthus as source. A selective approach is apparent also in his failure to call attention to conspicuous differences between his theoretical position and that of Malthus.

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