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Economic Philosophy Paperback – August 31, 2006

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Economic Philosophy + The Provocative Joan Robinson: The Making of a Cambridge Economist (Science and Cultural Theory)
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Editorial Reviews


“[This] author is one of the great economists of our day and probably the greatest economist of her sex which the world has yet produced. The book is crammed with so much wit… [and] wisdom… that it is impossible to do justice in a brief review.”

—Kenneth E. Bouding, American Sociological Review

 “This book, however, is not merely, nor even mainly, an essay in the history of thought; it is also an essay in methodology…. [I]t shows clearly how “ideology” has changed in the course of being subjected to critical examination.”

—Kurt Klappholz,Economica

“Mrs. Robinson has long been known as a most versatile economist…. Like all vigorous and original thinkers, Mrs. Robinson has bees in her bonnet. Some of them buzz with great energy in this book… [which includes] the underlying consistency of the author’s vision, and the vigour and clarity of her thought…. Economic Philosophy is a most stimulating work: it should not be missed by any student of economics between sixteen and ninety-six (or older).”

—H. D. Dickinson, The Economic Journal

“This book is based on the Josiah Mason lectures delivered by the authoress…. This book deserves high praise. It asks a great many extremely important and interesting questions and it avoids giving conventional and superficial answers: it avoids asking trivial or merely technical questions, and the answers given are witty, penetrating and illuminating.”

—D. G. Champernowne, Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series A

“Mrs. Robinson, one of the most powerful of Cambridge economists, has written this little book to expose what she calls the metaphysical nature of many of the concepts around which economists have built their theories.”

—D. K. Stout, The Philosophical Quarterly

“Economic Philosophy started life as one of the series of Josiah Mason lectures endowed by  the Rationalist Press Association and delivered to an adult education class. They must have been an audience of considerable sophistication; for while it is concise, clearly written, and abounding in wit and good humour, it is not for the uninitiated but pre-supposes some background in the history of economic thought and more than a nodding acquaintance with today’s theories and problems…. Professor Robinson has no difficulty in demonstrating, Schumpeter no-withstanding, that ideological factors have exercised a powerful influence on economic thought, no matter how narrowly defined.”

—William D. G. Hunter, The Canadian Journal of Economics

About the Author

Joan Robinson (1903-1983) was educated at Cambridge University and was a leading figure in the economics faculty there for nearly thirty years. In 1958 she joined the British academy, in 1965 she became a fellow and professor of Girton College and in 1979 she became the first woman to become a fellow at King's College. She has made many contributions to economic theory and policy in book and article form, including Economics of Imperfect Competition, Introduction to the Theory of Employment, and The Accumulation of Capital


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 150 pages
  • Publisher: Aldine Transaction (August 31, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0202309088
  • ISBN-13: 978-0202309088
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,782,123 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

2.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By G. F. Langer on May 21, 2007
Format: Paperback
Most people find something to dislike about Joan Robinson whether they are from the right or the left. She is one of the few people who managed to live a life of intellectual chit-chat without hooking up with any of the reigning orthodoxies. What could be more refreshing? What's more, she is a master theoretician and wordsmith.

The first chapter, about economics and ideology, is worth the price of the book.

Unless your brain has become numbed by modern life and 21st century economics, read this book. You are certain to be stimulated and any annoyance you experience is probably deserved.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By John Salvatier on May 27, 2007
Format: Paperback
Another reviewer recommends the book for the first chapter alone. I found chapter one very difficult to read, mostly because Robinson uses a lot of difficult-to-decipher quotes in that chapter, and she fails to explain them well. Perhaps there is significant insight in the chapter, but if you're not in the habit of reading Adam Smith, it will take you at least two reads to find it.

I admit that I have a very libertarian ideology, but I found a few of Robinson's critiques to be very nitpicky. For example, she takes issue with the claim that observable market behavior "reveals preferences" because it is impossible to make measurements independent of time, even though I would not think it is unreasonable to assume that people's preferences don't change drastically over short periods without the presence of factors that might cause that.

The second and third chapters have the most substance. Robinson does a good job of shedding light on the ideologies that pervades many economics concepts. Her critiques of value theory and utility theory are especially poignant. I was a little disappointed with the second half of the book because she seems to praise Keynes more than is due and extends her discussion of ideology less than I would have liked. Robinson also never really describes what she thinks should replace value or utility theory, or what she thinks economists should do differently.

Anyone with a serious, long lasting interest in economics should read this book, because the issues she discusses in the first half of the book are very important. I have a feeling that people who have read a lot of primary sources in economics (Adam Smith, Marx, Marshall) will get more out of the book than people who have not (I haven't).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By DG on May 26, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Due to a publisher's error on the cover, and an Amazon mistake in promoting this book as Joan Robinson's Book Economic Philosophy you should not order this book. Inside the cover is John Beverly Robinson's Economics of Liberty.

It is disappointing that they would make this mistake and inconvenience the purchasers.
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