Joan Robinson

Joan Robinson

Overview
Joan Violet Robinson FBA (31 October 1903 in Surrey
Surrey
Surrey is a county in the South East of England and is one of the Home Counties. The county borders Greater London, Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex, Hampshire and Berkshire. The historic county town is Guildford. Surrey County Council sits at Kingston upon Thames, although this has been part of...

 – 5 August 1983 in Cambridge
Cambridge
The city of Cambridge is a university town and the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire, England. It lies in East Anglia about north of London. Cambridge is at the heart of the high-technology centre known as Silicon Fen – a play on Silicon Valley and the fens surrounding the...

) was a post-Keynesian economist
Post-Keynesian economics
Post Keynesian economics is a school of economic thought with its origins in The General Theory of John Maynard Keynes, although its subsequent development was influenced to a large degree by Michał Kalecki, Joan Robinson, Nicholas Kaldor and Paul Davidson...

 who was well known for her knowledge of monetary economics and wide-ranging contributions to economic theory. She was the daughter of Major-General Sir Frederick Barton Maurice, 1st Baronet
Frederick Barton Maurice
Major-General Sir Frederick Barton Maurice, 1st Baronet GCB GCMG GCVO DSO was a British general, military correspondent, writer and academic...

 and was married to fellow economist Austin Robinson
Austin Robinson
Professor E. Austin G. Robinson was a University of Cambridge economist. He was a fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge....

.

Robinson read economics at Girton College, Cambridge
Cambridge
The city of Cambridge is a university town and the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire, England. It lies in East Anglia about north of London. Cambridge is at the heart of the high-technology centre known as Silicon Fen – a play on Silicon Valley and the fens surrounding the...

. Immediately after graduation in 1925, she married economist Austin Robinson
Austin Robinson
Professor E. Austin G. Robinson was a University of Cambridge economist. He was a fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge....

.
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Quotations

"Progress is slow partly from mere intellectual inertia. In a subject where there is no agreed procedure for knocking out errors, doctrines have a long life. A professor teaches what he was taught, and his pupils, with a proper respect and reverence for teachers, set up a resistance against his critics for no other reason than that it was he whose pupils they were.

"Economic Philosophy", Pelican 1964, p. 76.
Encyclopedia
Joan Violet Robinson FBA (31 October 1903 in Surrey
Surrey
Surrey is a county in the South East of England and is one of the Home Counties. The county borders Greater London, Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex, Hampshire and Berkshire. The historic county town is Guildford. Surrey County Council sits at Kingston upon Thames, although this has been part of...

 – 5 August 1983 in Cambridge
Cambridge
The city of Cambridge is a university town and the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire, England. It lies in East Anglia about north of London. Cambridge is at the heart of the high-technology centre known as Silicon Fen – a play on Silicon Valley and the fens surrounding the...

) was a post-Keynesian economist
Post-Keynesian economics
Post Keynesian economics is a school of economic thought with its origins in The General Theory of John Maynard Keynes, although its subsequent development was influenced to a large degree by Michał Kalecki, Joan Robinson, Nicholas Kaldor and Paul Davidson...

 who was well known for her knowledge of monetary economics and wide-ranging contributions to economic theory. She was the daughter of Major-General Sir Frederick Barton Maurice, 1st Baronet
Frederick Barton Maurice
Major-General Sir Frederick Barton Maurice, 1st Baronet GCB GCMG GCVO DSO was a British general, military correspondent, writer and academic...

 and was married to fellow economist Austin Robinson
Austin Robinson
Professor E. Austin G. Robinson was a University of Cambridge economist. He was a fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge....

.

Biography


Robinson read economics at Girton College, Cambridge
Cambridge
The city of Cambridge is a university town and the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire, England. It lies in East Anglia about north of London. Cambridge is at the heart of the high-technology centre known as Silicon Fen – a play on Silicon Valley and the fens surrounding the...

. Immediately after graduation in 1925, she married economist Austin Robinson
Austin Robinson
Professor E. Austin G. Robinson was a University of Cambridge economist. He was a fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge....

. In 1937, she became a lecturer
Lecturer
Lecturer is an academic rank. In the United Kingdom, lecturer is a position at a university or similar institution, often held by academics in their early career stages, who lead research groups and supervise research students, as well as teach...

 in economics at the University of Cambridge
University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world , and the seventh-oldest globally...

. She joined the British Academy
British Academy
The British Academy is the United Kingdom's national body for the humanities and the social sciences. Its purpose is to inspire, recognise and support excellence in the humanities and social sciences, throughout the UK and internationally, and to champion their role and value.It receives an annual...

 in 1958 and was then elected fellow of Newnham College
Newnham College, Cambridge
Newnham College is a women-only constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England.The college was founded in 1871 by Henry Sidgwick, and was the second Cambridge college to admit women after Girton College...

 in 1962. In 1965 she was given the position of full professor and fellow of Girton College. In 1979, just four years before she died, she became the first female fellow of King's College
King's College, Cambridge
King's College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England. The college's full name is "The King's College of our Lady and Saint Nicholas in Cambridge", but it is usually referred to simply as "King's" within the University....

.

Initially a supporter of neoclassical economics
Neoclassical economics
Neoclassical economics is a term variously used for approaches to economics focusing on the determination of prices, outputs, and income distributions in markets through supply and demand, often mediated through a hypothesized maximization of utility by income-constrained individuals and of profits...

, she changed her mind after getting acquainted with John Maynard Keynes
John Maynard Keynes
John Maynard Keynes, Baron Keynes of Tilton, CB FBA , was a British economist whose ideas have profoundly affected the theory and practice of modern macroeconomics, as well as the economic policies of governments...

. As a member of "the Cambridge School" of economics, Robinson assisted with the support and exposition of Keynes' General Theory
Keynesian economics
Keynesian economics is a school of macroeconomic thought based on the ideas of 20th-century English economist John Maynard Keynes.Keynesian economics argues that private sector decisions sometimes lead to inefficient macroeconomic outcomes and, therefore, advocates active policy responses by the...

, writing especially on its employment implications in 1936 and 1937 (it attempted to explain employment dynamics in the midst of the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

).

In 1933, in her book, The Economics of Imperfect Competition, Robinson coined the term "monopsony
Monopsony
In economics, a monopsony is a market form in which only one buyer faces many sellers. It is an example of imperfect competition, similar to a monopoly, in which only one seller faces many buyers...

," which is used to describe the buyer converse of a seller monopoly
Monopoly
A monopoly exists when a specific person or enterprise is the only supplier of a particular commodity...

.

In 1942 Robinson's An Essay on Marxian Economics famously concentrated on Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

 as an economist
Economist
An economist is a professional in the social science discipline of economics. The individual may also study, develop, and apply theories and concepts from economics and write about economic policy...

, helping revive the debate on this aspect of his legacy.

During the Second World War
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, Joan Robinson worked on a few different Committees for the wartime national government. During this time, she visited the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 as well as China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

. She developed an interest in underdeveloped and developing nations
Developing country
A developing country, also known as a less-developed country, is a nation with a low level of material well-being. Since no single definition of the term developing country is recognized internationally, the levels of development may vary widely within so-called developing countries...

 and contributed a lot that is now understood in this section of economics.

In 1949, she was invited by Ragnar Frisch to become the vice president of the Econometric Society
Econometric Society
The Econometric Society is an international society for the advancement of economic theory in its relation with statistics and mathematics. It was founded on December 29, 1930 at the Stalton Hotel in Cleveland, Ohio....

 but declined, saying she couldn't be part of the editorial committee of a journal she couldn't read.

In 1956, Joan Robinson published her magnum opus
Masterpiece
Masterpiece in modern usage refers to a creation that has been given much critical praise, especially one that is considered the greatest work of a person's career or to a work of outstanding creativity, skill or workmanship....

, The Accumulation of Capital, which extended Keynesianism into the long-run. Six years later, she published another book about growth theory, which talked about concepts of "Golden Age" growth paths. Afterwards, she developed the Cambridge growth theory with Nicholas Kaldor
Nicholas Kaldor
Nicholas Kaldor, Baron Kaldor was one of the foremost Cambridge economists in the post-war period...

. During the 1960s, she was a major participant in the Cambridge capital controversy
Cambridge capital controversy
The Cambridge capital controversy – sometimes simply called "the capital controversy" – refers to a theoretical and mathematical debate during the 1960s among economists concerning the nature and role of capital goods and the critique of the dominant neoclassical vision of aggregate...

 alongside Piero Sraffa
Piero Sraffa
Piero Sraffa was an influential Italian economist whose book Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities is taken as founding the Neo-Ricardian school of Economics.- Early life :...

.

Close to the end of her life she studied and concentrated on methodological problems in economics and tried to recover the original message of Keynes' General Theory. Between 1962 and 1980 she wrote many books to try and bring several economic theories to the general public. Robinson suggested developing an alternative to the revival of classical economics
Classical economics
Classical economics is widely regarded as the first modern school of economic thought. Its major developers include Adam Smith, Jean-Baptiste Say, David Ricardo, Thomas Malthus and John Stuart Mill....

.

Also, Robinson made several trips to China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, reporting her observations and analyses in China: An Economic Perspective (1958), The Cultural Revolution in China (1969), and Economic Management in China (1975; 3rd ed, 1976), in which she praised the Cultural Revolution
Cultural Revolution
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution , was a socio-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966 through 1976...

. She also stated in reference to divided Korea that "[o]bviously, sooner or later the country must be reunited by absorbing the South into socialism." These statements caused significant damage to her reputation, and possibly cost her the Nobel Prize for Economics. During her last decade, she became more and more pessimistic about the possibilities of reforming economic theory, as expressed, for example, in her essay “Spring Cleaning”.

Major works

  • The Economics of Imperfect Competition (1933)
  • An Essay on Marxian Economics (1942), Second Edition (1966), The Macmillan Press Ltd, ISBN 0 333 05800 3
  • Accumulation of Capital (1956)
  • Exercises in Economic Analysis (1960)
  • Essays in the Theory of Economic Growth (1962)
  • Economic Philosophy: An essay on the progress of economic thought (1962)
  • Freedom and Necessity: An introduction to the study of society (1970)
  • Economic Heresies: Some Old Fashioned Questions in Economic Theory, (1971) Basic Books New York ISBN 465-017686-x
  • Contributions to Modern Economics, (1978) Basil Blackwell Oxford ISBN 0 631 19220 4

Texts for the lay reader

  • Economics is a serious subject: The apologia of an economist to the mathematician, the scientist and the plain man (1932), Publisher: W. Heffer & Sons
  • Introduction to the Theory of Employment (1937)
  • An Introduction to Modern Economics (1973) with John Eatwell
  • The Arms Race (1982), Tanner Lectures on Human Values
    Tanner Lectures on Human Values
    The Tanner Lectures on Human Values is a multi-university lecture series in the humanities, founded on July 1, 1978, at Clare Hall, Cambridge University, by the American scholar Obert Clark Tanner...


See also

  • International economics
    International economics
    International economics is concerned with the effects upon economic activity of international differences in productive resources and consumer preferences and the institutions that affect them...

  • List of economists
  • Macroeconomics
    Macroeconomics
    Macroeconomics is a branch of economics dealing with the performance, structure, behavior, and decision-making of the whole economy. This includes a national, regional, or global economy...

  • Wealth condensation
  • Welfare economics
    Welfare economics
    Welfare economics is a branch of economics that uses microeconomic techniques to evaluate economic well-being, especially relative to competitive general equilibrium within an economy as to economic efficiency and the resulting income distribution associated with it...


Further reading

  • Emani, Zohreh, 2000, "Joan Robinson" in Robert W. Dimand et al. eds. A Biographical Dictionary of Women Economists, Edward Elgar
  • Harcourt, GC, 1995, Obituary: Joan Robinson 1903-1983, Economic Journal, Vol. 105, No. 432. (Sep., 1995), pp. 1228–1243.
  • Pasinetti, Luigi L.
    Luigi Pasinetti
    Luigi L. Pasinetti is an Italian economist of the Post-Keynesians school. Pasinetti is considered the heir of the "Cambridge Keynesians" and a student of Piero Sraffa and Richard Kahn. Along with them, as well as Joan Robinson, he was one of the prominent members on the "Cambridge, UK" side of the...

     (1987), "Robinson, Joan Violet," The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics, v. 4, pp. 212–17, Macmillan

External links