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3.4.4 The neoclassical synthesis

From the discussion of sections 3.4.1–3.4.3 it will be apparent that, if money

wages and prices are flexible, the Keynesian IS–LM model can in theory, via

the Pigou or wealth effect, automatically adjust to achieve full employment,

the main prediction of classical economics. In terms of pure analytical theory,

Pigou was said to have won the intellectual battle, establishing a triumph for

classical theory. Some writers (for example, Wilson, 1980; Presley, 1986;

Bridel, 1987) have suggested that Keynes anticipated the wealth effect but

rejected it on theoretical and practical grounds. Notwithstanding this neglected

point, Keynesians regarded themselves as having won the policy

debate in that the process of adjustment via the Pigou effect might be so slow

that interventionist policies (notably expansionary fiscal policy) would be

required to ensure a more rapid return to full employment. During the late

1950s and early 1960s a consensus view emerged, the so-called ‘neoclassical

synthesis’ (see Fletcher, 2002), in which the General Theory was seen as a

special case of a more general classical theory (that is, the case where

downward money wage rigidity prevents the classical automatic adjustment

to full employment), while the need was recognized for Keynesian interventionist

policies to ensure a more rapid return to full employment.