Guest Editors: Carolina Alves† and Jan Toporowski ‡
Internal Editors: Sue Konzelmann and Alan Shipman
- † Joan Robinson Research Fellow in Heterodox Economics, University of Cambridge
- ‡ Professor of Economics and Finance at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
2023 marks the fortieth year since the passing of Joan Robinson and her one-hundred-and-twentieth anniversary. This special issue of the Cambridge Journal of Economics aims at presenting a collection of papers that reflect the extraordinary breadth of Robinson’s career and examine what insights these might offer the economics profession and policy makers to address our seemingly most intractable problems of inadequate demand, rising margins with falling competition, and widespread and seemingly intransigent inequality and its consequences. For Robinson the purpose of our discipline is in understanding the real world to enable all global citizens to enjoy life to the full. It is therefore fitting that we follow her lead and demand that we ask of ourselves whether we have done enough to address her challenges to economic theory.
Despite making her international reputation in the Marshallian tradition of economics, she came to regard her generalisation of John Maynard Keynes’s theories and their integration with Kaleckian and Marxian insights as her more substantial contribution, along with a vigorous defence of rigorous evidence-based thought over inductive mathematical modelling. Among an impressive body of work, five books by Robinson mark key moments in the evolution of her ideas: The Economics of Imperfect Competition (1933), Essays in the Theory of Employment (1937a) and Introduction to the Theory of Employment (1937b), written as guides to follow Keynes’s General Theory, and An Essay on Marxian Economics (1942), and The Accumulation of Capital (1956).
These five works established her place in economic theory providing systematic foundations for Keynesian economics. Yet, as Keynesian economics was absorbed into the neo-classical mainstream, Robinson followed up with critical works on economic methodology: Economic Philosophy (1962) and Economic Heresies. Some Old-fashioned Questions in Economic Theory (1971), and five volumes of Collected Economic Papers. She also saw the need to reach out to students with an alternative approach to economic reality, which resulted in a textbook co-authored with John Eatwell in 1973 called An Introduction to Modern Economics.
Robinson reshaped economics of her time, and her achievement was no mean feat by a woman. Her time in Cambridge is one when women were not allowed degrees, scholarships and fellowships were blocked to women, and only male graduate students had a seat at the administration table. The economics profession had no visible female role models; rarely were academic papers or books on the subject attributed to women. She was outspoken, fearless and had an extraordinary analytical ability. She was also a particular type of original thinker with a strong social message coming from her writings, aiming at practical actions ranging from unemployment to underdevelopment, and engaging with the struggles for political and economic independence of colonial peoples, with a special attention to Asia and enthusiasm for Communist China.
Since her death in 1983, modern economics has evolved. Despite a whole new look at mark ups and imperfect competition and lack of competition, the assumption of perfect competition (‘potential’ if not actual) came back and is well established in economic analysis; Marxism has renewed an interest in questions of value, the rate of profit, and inequality; and Keynesianism has mutated into New Keynesianism and Post-Keynesianism. With political economy facing unprecedented challenges, the fortieth anniversary of Joan Robinson’s death and the one-hundred-and-twentieth anniversary of her birth in 2023 are excellent occasions to review her work and critical observations on twenty-first-century economics.
For this Special Issue of the Cambridge Journal of Economics we invite scholars to discuss how Robinson’s writings have influenced economics and can continue to advance it in the 21st Century. The Special Issue is not merely interested in the history of Robinson’s thought but in interpreting, applying, and advancing her economic and methodological ideas. We are particularly interested in assessing the impact of her publications and work in three broad areas:
her contribution to economics, including but not limited to:
Marxist economic theory
economic growth and long-period analysis
theory of distribution
theories of capital, wages, and profit
theory of equilibrium
history and time
her activities as a public intellectual (e.g., support for economic planning in UK, advocacy of Keynesian economic policies, and support for – and eventual disillusionment with – Maoist China, etc)
her role in co-founding and inspiring the Cambridge tradition of heterodox economics
Notes on submitting to the special issue
Submissions should be made using the journal’s online submission system. There is the opportunity, during the submission process, to indicate that your manuscript is a candidate for the planned special issue entitled ‘Celebrating the 120th anniversary of Joan Violet Robinson’. Please ensure that this is signalled so that your manuscript can be tagged as a special issue submission. Authors are also advised to include a note indicating this in a covering letter – this can be uploaded during the submission process.
All papers submitted will be considered using the CJE’s usual preliminary assessment and peer review process. Please refer to the Journal’s information for authors.
Deadline for submitting papers via CJE refereeing process: 30 April 2022
- Robinson, J. (1933). The Economics of Imperfect Competition. London: Macmillan.
- Robinson, J. (1937a). Essays in the Theory of Employment. London: Macmillan.
- Robinson, J. (1937b). Introduction to the Theory of Employment. London: Macmillan
- Robinson, J. (1942) An Essay in Marxian Economics. London, Macmillan.
- Robinson, J. (1956). The Accumulation of Capital. London: Macmillan.
- Robinson, J. (1962) Economic Philosophy. Penguin Books: Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England.
- Robinson, J. (1971) Economic Heresies. Some Old-fashioned Questions in Economic Theory. London, Macmillan.
- Robinson, J. (1980a) Collected Economic Papers, Vol. I, II, III, IV, V. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press
- Robinson, J. and Eatwell, J. (1973). An Introduction to Modern Economics. London: McGraw-Hill.