Misunderstanding classical economics - the Sraffian interpretation of the surplus approach

Paper number: 98/02

Year: 1998

Paper Category: Discussion Paper


Mark Blaug
University of Exeter


In the last decade or so, disciples of Piero Sraffa have propagated a particular interpretation of classical economics, according to which the classical economists focussed on the 'core' of their analysis on the determination of relative prices in long-run equilibrium, taking as given the volume of output, its commodity composition, the technology of every industry, and real wages; everything else in classical economics is said to belong to the periphery and follows from the analysis at the core. This interpretation is an ingenious rational reconstruction, reading Sraffa's own concerns backwards into Smith, Ricardo, Mill and Marx, but it is an inaccurate historical reconstruction and consigns to a lower level of significant crucial features, not to mention the most fruitful elements of classical political economy.

JEL Classification Nos: XXX
Keywords: Xxxx

Corresponding Author: Mark Blaug, Department of Economics, University of Exeter, Amory Building, Rennes Drive, Exeter, EX4 4RJ, UK, tel: (44) 1392 26XXXX, fax: (44) 1392 263242, email: M.Blaug@exeter.ac.uk