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An Essay on Marxian Economics

An Essay on Marxian Economics is a 1942 book about Karl Marx by the economist Joan Robinson. The first work by a major British economist to show interest in Marx since the 19th century,[1] it has received both praise and criticism from commentators.

An Essay on Marxian Economics
An Essay on Marxian Economics.jpg
Author Joan Robinson
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Subject Karl Marx
Published 1942
Media type Print (Hardcover and Paperback)
ISBN 0333058003



Robinson re-evaluates Marx positively in relation to classical orthodoxy, but argues that he contains limitations that can be remedied only by using the work of John Maynard Keynes. She completely rejects Marx's labor theory of value, and recasts his work within the framework of aggregate Keynesian variables.[2] Robinson argues that there is a contradiction between the first and second volumes of Capital: in Capital, Volume I, Marx assumes that a rising labor productivity leads to a rising rate of exploitation, whereas in Capital, Volume III he assumes that rising labor productivity could lead, through a stable rate of exploitation, to a rising rate of real wages and a declining rate of profit.[3]


Eric Roll, reviewing An Essay on Marxian Economics in The Yale Law Journal, called it an important work, writing that its appearance alongside Paul Sweezy's The Theory of Capitalist Development (1942) represented "a significant landmark in the development of economic thinking."[4] Political scientist David McLellan described Robinson's work as "an impressive attempt to revitalise Marx's main economic doctrines."[5]

The Marxist theorist Ernest Mandel accused Robinson of misinterpretations of Marx similar to those of Rosa Luxemburg. He rejected her view that there is a contradiction in Capital, arguing that she fails to understand that the first and second volumes of Capital are at different levels of abstraction, deal with different questions, and make different assumptions in order to clarify the specific dynamics which allow answers to them.[3]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ Sweezy 1984. p. vi.
  2. ^ Cleaver 2000. p. 37.
  3. ^ a b Mandel 1991. pp. 29-30.
  4. ^ Roll 1943.
  5. ^ McLellan 1995. p. 445.


  • Cleaver, Harry (2000). Reading Capital Politically. Leeds: Ak Press. ISBN 1-902593-29-4. 
  • Mandel, Ernest; Marx, Karl (1991). Capital, Volume 1. London: Penguin. ISBN 0-14-044570-6. 
  • McLellan, David (1995). Karl Marx: A Biography. London: Papermac. ISBN 0-333-63947-2. 
  • Sweezy, Paul M.; Böhm-Bawerk, Eugen von; Hilferding, Rudolf (1984). Karl Marx and the Close of His System & Böhm-Bawerk's Criticism of Marx. New York: Orion Editions. ISBN 0-87991-250-2. 
Online articles
  • Roll, Eric. "Reviewed Works: The Theory of Capitalist Development by Paul M. Sweezy; An Essay on Marxian Economics by Joan Robinson". JSTOR 792264.