Development and Underdevelopment in the History of Economic Thought

Gardiner Means’ Contributions to Post-Keynesian Theory

KIZILCA F. Kemal, Ankara University

Although Gardiner Means never defined himself as a post-Keynesian (PK) economist, due to his battle against the marginalist theory of prices, his emphasis on non-profit maximizing behavior of firms as well as his strong influence on heterodox policies of the New Deal era, certain authors consider him as one of the founding figures of PK theory and a notable contributor to heterodox economic thought (Eichner, 1980, 1985; Lee and Samuels, 1992: xxx; Lee, 1999; Gu, 2012). Furthermore, Eichner (1980), Lee and Samuels (1992: xxix), and Ware (1992) claim that mainstream economists either attack or ignore Means’ contributions to economic theory, mainly because of their heterodox nature. Paradoxically, many surveys of PK economics by prominent contributors does not mention Gardiner Means’ name at all (Lichtenstein, 1983; Arestis, 1992, 1996; Rousseas, Palley, 1996; 1998; Deprez and Harvey, 2001; Shapiro and Sawyer, 2003; Harcourt, 2006; Forstater et al., 2007; Jespersen, 2009), or cite him only in passing (Lavoie, 2006; Davidson, 2011). In Lee and Downward’s terms, “[…] institutionalists and Post Keynesians have either uncritically accepted Means's claims or simply ignored them” (Lee and Downward, 1999: 862). It is the purpose of the current study to scrutinize possible reasons behind the contradictory evaluations of Means’ contributions to heterodox economics among PK authors. In doing so, I benefit from his exchanges with certain Keynesian, post-Keynesian, and Marxian economists of his era, and provide a comparative analysis of Means' ideas vis-à-vis of those economists.

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Keywords: post-Keynesian theory, price theory, administered prices, Gardiner Means

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