Sraffa on Marshall's Theory of Value in the Cambridge Lectures: Achievements in an Unfinished Criticism

CSWP 34 (February 2019)

Author Attilio Trezzini

Keywords Sraffa; Piero Sraffa Papers; Marshall; Theory of Costs.

JEL B12; B13; B24; B31.

In his Cambridge lectures, Sraffa argues that classical political economy and marginalist economics present two alternative theoretical structures. This was a major achievement reached during the preparation of the lectures. The understanding of these two theoretical structures was however still unfinished: as known,  he had already identified the need for simultaneous determination of prices and distribution – a result comprehensibly not made explicit in the lectures; but the critical implications of this result for the interpretation of Marshall's position were probably not yet evident to Sraffa. He in fact still accepted the Marshallian thesis that classical political economy and marginalist economics identified two single alternative “ultimate standards of value”.
Sraffa’s failure to also overcome this limitation of the debate on the ultimate standard bears witness to his, albeit critical, initial adherence to the Marshallian theoretical framework. The road towards Production of Commodities was open but still unfinished.

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