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Williams College. Joan Robinson’s (last) course reading list, 1982

After a glorious three week archive/library tour that has taken me from the Library of Congress in Washington to the Harvard Archives to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library to the Johns Hopkins Archives and back to the Library of Congress, I have time before my flight back to Berlin for a post.

Less than a year before her death, Joan Robinson taught at Williams College in the Autumn/Winter of 1982. Her lectures at Williams were attended by a former colleague of mine from the University of Houston, Dr. D. Andrew Austin, now at the Library of Congress. Andrew shared with me the reading list for her lectures “Problems in Economic Analysis” along with a list of questions for a paper/take-home (exam).

Robinson’s chosen readings are taken from her books:

  • Economic Heresies: Some Old-fashioned Questions in Economic Theory. London: Macmillan, 1971.
  • Contributions to Modern Economics. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1978.
  • Aspects of Development and Underdevelopment. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1979.
  • Collected Economic Papers (5 vols.). Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1951-79; reprinted by MIT Press in 1980.
  • What are the Questions? An Other Essays: Further Contributions to Modern Economics. Armonk, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe, 1981.



Professor Joan Robinson

[Williams College, 1982]


  1. Economics: Ideas and Ideology
    “Marx, Marshall, and Keynes” (Contributions to Modern Economics, Ch. 7)
    “Economics Today” (Collected Economic Papers, Vol. 4, p. 122-127)
    “The Second Crisis of Economic Theory” (Collected Papers, 4, Ch. 10)
  2. What are the Questions?
    “What are the Questions?” (Further Contributions, Ch. 1)
    “The Age of Growth” (Further Contributions, Ch. 2)
    “Stagflation” (Further Contributions, Ch. 3)
  3. and 4. Effective Demand and Employment
    “Prices and Money” (Economic Heresies, Ch. 6)
    “Obstacles to Full Employment” (Contributions, Ch. 3)
    “The Rate of Interest” (Contributions, Ch. 5)
  4. Prices
    “The Philosophy of Prices” (Contributions, Ch. 14)
    “Imperfect Competition Revisited” (Contributions, Ch. 15)
    “The Theory of Value Reconsidered” (Contributions, Ch. 16)
    “The Theory of the Firm” (Economic Heresies, Ch. 7)
  5. Capital, Distribution, and Growth
    “The Meaning of Capital” (Contributions, Ch. 11)
    “Marginal Productivity” (Collected Papers, Vol. 4, Ch. 14)
    “Interest and Profit” (Economic Heresies, Ch. 3)
    “Surplus and Accumulation” (Aspects of Development & Underdevelopment, Ch. 2)
  6. International Trade
    “Beggar-My-Neighbour Remedies for Unemployment” (Contributions, Ch. 17)
    “The New Mercantilism” (Contributions, Ch. 18)
    “Trade in Primary Commodities” (Aspects of Development, Ch. 4)
  7. Economic Development
    “The Poverty of Nations” (Collected Papers, Vol. 4, Ch. 11)
    Aspects of Development and Underdevelopment
  8. Capitalism and Socialism
    “Latter-Day Capitalism” (Contributions, Ch. 21)
    “Has Capitalism Changed” (Contributions, Ch. 20)
    “Socialist Affluence” (Contributions, Ch. 22)


Econ. 353 Paper/Take Home
Professor Joan Robinson

Do the following three questions:

  1. Experience in the 1980s seems to be fulfilling Kalecki’s prediction of a political trade cycle. Comment.
  2. a) Explain Keynes’ theory of employment.
    b) Keynes failed to make clear whether this theory was intended to apply to a closed or open economy. Does it matter? Why or why not?
  3. What is the meaning of capital as a factor of production?


Choose one of the following two questions:

  1. The orthodox doctrines of economics which were dominant in the last quarter of the nineteenth century had a clear message. They supported laisser faire, free trade, the gold standard, and the universally advantageous effects of the pursuit of profit by competitive private enterprise. This was acceptable to the authorities in an expanding and flourishing capitalist world, especially to the authorities in England, which was still felt to be the dominant center and chief beneficiary of the system. Comment.
  2. The so-called Quantity Theory of Money consists in mistaking a symptom for a cause. Comment.



Source: Copy provided to Economics in the Rear-view Mirror by D. Andrew Austin of the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Image Source: Joan Robinson at Williams College, Fall 1982 in Joan Robinson and the Americans by Marjorie Shephard Turner, p. 112 (ebook price: $9.99). Published by M. E. Sharpe , 1989.



Irwin Collier

Posted by: Irwin Collier