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Some Positions Some Take On Sraffa’s Book

Summary:
This post lists some views on Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities: A Prelude to a Critique of Economic Theory. The quantity flows Sraffa takes as given are those observable in an actual economy at a given time, as with a snapshot (Roncaglia 1978). These quantity flows, on the contrary, are at the level of effectual demand (Garegnani 1990). These quantity flows are for an economy in a self-replacing state. The assumption of constant returns to scale is necessary for drawing any interesting conclusions from Sraffa's work (Samuelson 1990, Samuelson 2000). Market prices tend towards or orbit around Sraffa's prices of production in a process akin to gravitational attraction (Garegnani 1990). Sraffa's book is an investigation of logical consequences in a system of prices of

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This post lists some views on Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities: A Prelude to a Critique of Economic Theory.

  • The quantity flows Sraffa takes as given are those observable in an actual economy at a given time, as with a snapshot (Roncaglia 1978).
  • These quantity flows, on the contrary, are at the level of effectual demand (Garegnani 1990).
  • These quantity flows are for an economy in a self-replacing state.
  • The assumption of constant returns to scale is necessary for drawing any interesting conclusions from Sraffa's work (Samuelson 1990, Samuelson 2000).
  • Market prices tend towards or orbit around Sraffa's prices of production in a process akin to gravitational attraction (Garegnani 1990).
  • Sraffa's book is an investigation of logical consequences in a system of prices of production, akin to reasoning in geometry; no claims are put forth about tendencies or paths of market prices (Sinha 2012).
  • Sraffa started, in the 1920s, in his research for his 1960 book from labor values and Marx's schemes of reproduction in Volume 2 of Capital (De Vivo 2003 and Gilibert 2003).
  • Sraffa began, on the contrary, with a formalization of prices in terms of physical real cost; labor values are a corruption of this notion of real costs and Sraffa was not originally inspired by Marx in his economics (Gehrke and Kurz 2006).
  • Sraffa showed that labor values are unnecessary and redundant for defining prices of production (Steedman 1981).
  • Sraffa, on the contrary, vindicated Marx in his work (Porta 2012 and Bellofiore 2014).
  • Sraffa's work cannot be set in historical time (Robinson 1985).
  • Sraffa, for methodological reasons, rejected counterfactual reasoning and thus the marginal revolution (Sen 2003).

Some of the above statements are probably stated more strongly than the referenced scholars might endorse. I am also not at all sure those are the best references. They certainly are not the most up-to-date. It is clear at any rate that the Cambridge Capital Controversy was not solely about difficulties in aggregating capital and that Sraffa's approach to economics cannot be subsumed by general equilibrium theory (Hahn 1982).

References
  • Bellofiore, Riccardo. 2014. The loneliness of the long distance thinker: Sraffa, Marx, and the critique of economic theory. In Bellofiore and Carter (2014).
  • Bellofiore, Riccardo and Scott Carter. 2014. Towards a New Understanding of Sraffa: Insights from Archival Research. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Bharadwaj, Krishna and Bertram Schefold (eds.). 1990. Essays on Piero Sraffa: Critical Perspectives on the Revival of Classical Theory. London: Unwin Hyman.
  • de Vivo, Giancarlo. 2003. Sraffa's path to Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities. An interpretation. Contributions to Political Economy 22 (1): 1-25.
  • Garegnani, Pierangelo. 1990. Classical versus Marginalist Analysis. In Bharadwaj and Schefold (1990).
  • Gehrke, Christian & Heinz D. Kurz. 2006. Sraffa on von Bortkiewicz: Reconstructing the classical theory of value and distribution. History of Political Economy 38 (1): 91-149.
  • Gilibert, Giorgio. 2003. The equations unveiled: Sraffa's price equations in the making. Contributions to Political Economy 22 (1): 27-40.
  • Hahn, Frank H. 1982. The neo-Ricardians. Cambridge Journal of Economics 6: 352-374.
  • Kurz, Heinz D. (ed.). 2000. Critical Essays on Piero Sraffa's Legacy in Economics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Porta, Pier Luigi. 2012. Piero Sraffa's early views on classical political economy. Cambridge Journal of Economics 36: 1357-1383.
  • Robinson, Joan. 1985. The theory of normal prices and the reconstruction of economic theory.
  • Roncaglia, Alessandro. 1978. Sraffa and the Theory of Prices (trans. by J. A. Kregel). New York: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Samuelson, Paul A. 1990. Revisionist findings on Sraffa. In Bharadwaj and Schefold (1990) and reprinted in Kurz (2000).
  • Samuelson, Paul A. 2000. Sraffa's hits and misses. In Kurz 2000.
  • Sen, Amartya. 2003. Sraffa, Wittgenstein, and Gramsci. Journal of Economic Literature 41: 1240-1255.
  • Sinha, Ajit. 2012. Listen to Sraffa's silences: a new interpretation of Sraffa's Production of Commodities. Cambridge Journal of Economics 36 (6): 1323-1339.
  • Steedman, Ian. 1981. Marx after Sraffa. London: Verso.

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