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Joan Robinson On Michal Kalecki’s Claim To Priority

Summary:
Keynesian policy is popular again. Many fiscal hawks are now arguing for stimulus, although they want to do it only temporarily. I came across this 1976 article Michal Kalecki: A Neglected Prophet by Joan Robinson where she argued once again for Michal Kalecki’s originality.Robinson:He told me that he had taken a year’s leave from the institute where he was working in Warsaw to write his own General Theory. (When his early Polish essays were published in English, it became clear that he had worked out the main points by 1933.) In Stockholm someone gave him Keynes’s book. He began to read it—it was the book that he had intended to write. He thought, perhaps further on there will be something different. No, it was his book all the way. He said: “I confess, I became ill. Three days I lay in

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Keynesian policy is popular again. Many fiscal hawks are now arguing for stimulus, although they want to do it only temporarily. I came across this 1976 article Michal Kalecki: A Neglected Prophet by Joan Robinson where she argued once again for Michal Kalecki’s originality.

Robinson:

He told me that he had taken a year’s leave from the institute where he was working in Warsaw to write his own General Theory. (When his early Polish essays were published in English, it became clear that he had worked out the main points by 1933.) In Stockholm someone gave him Keynes’s book. He began to read it—it was the book that he had intended to write. He thought, perhaps further on there will be something different. No, it was his book all the way. He said: “I confess, I became ill. Three days I lay in bed. Then I thought—Keynes is better known than I am. These ideas will get across much quicker with him and then we can get on to the interesting question, which is of course the application of these theoretical ideas to policy-making. Then I got up.”
Kalecki did not make any public claim to his independent discovery of what became known as Keynes’s General Theory. I made it my business to blow his trumpet for him, but I was often met with skepticism. In the US, only Lawrence Klein recognized (in The Keynesian Revolution, 1947) that Kalecki’s system of analysis was as complete as Keynes’s and in some respects superior to it.

At the end of his life Michal told me that he felt he had done right not to make any claim to priority over Keynes. It would only have led to a tiresome kind of argument. Perhaps people have been skeptical of Kalecki’s contribution to the history of economic theory precisely because he did not demand recognition himself. Such dignified behavior is rare in this degenerate age. The only reference Kalecki ever made to the question is in the preface to a selection of essays, published, alas, posthumously. “The first part includes three papers published in 1933, 1934, and 1935 in Polish before Keynes’ General Theory appeared, and containing, I believe, its essentials.”3

3Michal Kalecki, Selected Essays on the Dynamics of the Capitalist Economy, 1933-1970 (Cambridge University Press, 1971), p. vii.

There are many other by Joan Robinson where she argued this, especially this.

Joan Robinson On Michal Kalecki’s Claim To Priority

Picture credit: Poland Today

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