[OPE-L:1196] Sraffa and Marx

From: Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Date: Sun Sep 12 1999 - 12:18:55 EDT

Jurriaan wrote in [OPE-L:1195]:

> Sraffa wrote rather a lot.

Actually, Sraffa wrote only a little. Other than his slim book [_PCMC_] and
his writings on Ricardo, his total published work (not including letters
published by others) amounted to about 117 pages. Of course, _PCMC_ (less
than 100 pages) is his best-known, longest, and most significant work. His
1926 (15 page) article in the _EJ_ ("The Laws of Returns Under Competitive
Capitalism") was also rather influential.

(Note: the above statistic, i.e. 117 pages, was arrived at by adding-up
the entries in the "Bibliography" to Jean-Pierre Potier's biography. It
also includes articles that were not published in English.)
> I am appreciative of Sraffian economics, particularly insofar as it quite
> effectively demolishes neo-classical capital theory and marginal utility
> theory.

The sub-title of _PCMC_ is a "Prelude to a Critique of Economic Theory".
It was not intended to be a critique of Marx but of marginalist theory.
It was intended "to serve as a basis" for a critique of the marginal
theory of value and distribution (p. vi).

> But Marxists also have to be critical of some of Sraffa's
> abstractions, which cancel out theoretical gains of Marx's Capital (see
> e.g. Mandel & Freeman, eds., Ricardo, Marx, Sraffa. 1984).

I think the Mandel and Freeman ed. book (hi Alan) was directed
against Steedman, not Sraffa (despite the title of the book). Initially,
many influential Marxists [e.g. Dobb, Meek] gave his book quite favorable

The relationship of Marx to Sraffa is rather hard to determine (we
discussed that topic once in a thread called "Was Sraffa a Marxist?")
since he wrote very little on Marx.

> Sraffa like
> Kalecki is on my to-read list, but I just don't have the time at present,
> unfortunately.

Kalecki wrote quite a lot in comparison to Sraffa.

No doubt, Sraffa's work has to be judged though by its quality rather
than its quantity.

In any event, _PCMC_ is the place to start reading what he had to say.
The Potier book is a good secondary source on Sraffa.

In solidarity, Jerry

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