Development and Underdevelopment in the History of Economic Thought

Economic Theory and Philosophical Anthropology: Marx, Gramsci, Sraffa and the Study of Human Nature

Le Donne Alessandro, University of Genoa

Every economic theory is structured starting from general assumptions about human nature and the behavioural patterns of individuals. It has been argued (Hodgson 1991; p. 174; Cambridge Journal of Economics (36, 2012)) that the Classical approach, even in its revival after Sraffa, does not offer any theory of human agency and interaction. In order to discuss this issue, we believe that Sraffa's note "Metafisica" (Sraffa D3.12.4) may be of particular interest. Here Sraffa maintains that many commentators may consider that the important part of his work is the analytical one, without being able to grasp the importance of the historical contextualization, which, on the contrary, is fundamental to discuss and understand political economy and, in general, society and human nature. In the present work, we propose to reflect upon this note of Sraffa, and show a possible pathway to integrate the analytical part of his work with the historical analysis based on the materialist philosophical anthropology proposed by Marx. First of all, we will discuss the following possible joint vision: on one side, Garegnani’s theory of the relation between economic variables according to different levels of abstraction, whether they are into the “core” of necessary quantitative relations, or out of it. On the other side, the analysis proposed by Andrea Ginzburg, who classified Sraffa’s thought as a "non [immediately] causal theory". Then we put forward some hints of a theory of history neither deterministic nor mechanistic, where the relation between "structure" and "superstructure" is far from being static or direct. In order to do so, we will refer to both the "young" and the "late" Marx, interpreted through Gramsci’s theory of hegemony. Therefore, we conclude that the historical subjectivity bears crucial elements of unpredictability, when it is studied through the materialist anthropological view.


Keywords: Gramsci, Individualism, Marxian anthropology, Sraffa, Surplus Approach

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