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8.1 Introduction

A heterogeneous group of economists, united solely by their rejection of the

neoclassical synthesis, often claim the same name to their approach to macroeconomic

modelling, namely Post Keynesian economics. Unfortunately many

of these heterogeneous models are merely variants of orthodox classical

theory and are not based on the theoretical revolution that underlies Keynes’s

(1936) General Theory. Consequently classifying many of these diverse economists

(for example Michal Kalecki, Piero Sraffa and his neo-Ricardian

followers), who still cling to variants of classical economics as Post Keynesian

economists, merely obfuscates the difference between Keynes (and those

Post Keynesians who use Keynes’s analytical model) and mainstream

macroeconomists who are really putting forth twenty-first-century versions

of classical analytical theory. A consistent, precise definition of Post Keynesian

economics will be presented in the next section.

While Lawrence Klein (1947) described Keynes’s analysis as representing a

‘revolution’ in economic theory, many economists claim that mainstream developments

in ‘Keynesian’ macroeconomics have turned out to be ‘a road to

nowhere’. The development of the ‘hydraulic’ Keynesian model, by economists

such as Hicks, Samuelson, Modigliani and Tobin, represents a ‘retreat back

inside the orthodox citadel’ (see also Gerrard, 1988; Coddington, 1976). Even

worse, the failure of orthodox Keynesian analysis and policy prescriptions

fuelled the monetarist and new classical ‘counter-revolutions’. Furthermore,

* Paul Davidson, Holly Chair of Excellence in Political Economy, Emeritus, University of

Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee (USA), is Editor of the Journal of Post Keynesian Economics.

the ‘new’ Keynesian research programme, which emerged as a response to the

critiques of the neoclassical synthesis by the new classical school, contains no

‘Keynesian beef’ (Davidson, 1994). In the light of these developments, from a

Post Keynesian perspective, the ‘Keynesian revolution’, in the sense of representing

a successful and radical break with classical thinking, never took off.

According to Holt (1997), most economists who call themselves Post

Keynesians have traditionally been divided into two broad groups, namely

the ‘European’ and the ‘American’ camps. The ‘European’, or Cambridge

UK, group includes the body of work associated with economists such as

Geoff Harcourt, Richard Kahn, Nicholas Kaldor, Michal Kalecki, Joan

Robinson and Piero Sraffa. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s some of Keynes’s

former Cambridge colleagues, in particular Joan Robinson, consistently and

repeatedly highlighted what they interpreted as the misinterpretation of

Keynes’s main insights by leading mainstream (‘bastard’) Keynesian thinkers

(Robinson, 1972). The second broad camp identified by Holt includes the

work of economists such as Victoria Chick, Alfred Eichner, Jan Kregel,

Hyman Minsky, Basil Moore, George Shackle, Sidney Weintraub and Paul

Davidson. Although Holt labels this latter group as ‘American’, it is the style

and emphasis of analysis, rather than nationality, that matters in deciding

who is in which broad group. For example, George Shackle is English and

Victoria Chick, though born in America, has spent most of her professional

career in England.

As a broad generalization Holt’s ‘European’ group, like all classical economists,

has emphasized the behaviour and functioning of the real economy

while ignoring, or at least downplaying, monetary and financial implications.

Some but not all in Holt’s American grouping have typically concentrated

their attention on the impact of uncertainty, and monetary and financial

influences, on the economy (see Hamouda and Harcourt, 1988; Chick, 1995;

Davidson, 1991, 1996, 2002; Arestis and Sawyer, 1998).

Although Eichner and Kregel (1975) have argued that Post Keynesian

economics represented a coherent alternative school of thought to mainstream

macroeconomic analysis, controversy still surrounds this claim

(Coddington, 1976, and Patinkin, 1990b, have provided excellent surveys of

the various interpretations of Keynes’s General Theory; see also Arestis,

1996; Walters and Young, 1997; and Snowdon and Vane, 1997a). In fact,

there is some basis for this lack of a coherent view because many who claim

to be Post Keynesians among Holt’s European group and at least one in the

American group utilize variants of a classical model rather than Keynes’s

financial and monetary analytical approach. Accordingly, in the remainder of

this chapter, rather than survey the complete body of work created by this

heterogeneous group of economists all wanting to display the label of Post

Keynesians, I argue that only those analytical models that adopt Keynes’s

principle of effective demand and recognize the importance liquidity preference

plays in the General Theory (Keynes, 1936) are entitled to use the

appellation of Post Keynesians. The main thrust of this argument implies that

the true theoretical legacy of Keynes cannot be found within any branch of

mainstream Keynesianism, old or new.