8 February 2018, 8:15 pm 

Clare Hall Meeting Room

Adam Smith and the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Reflections on Classical Political Economy and Manufacturing Regimes

Patrizio Bianchi

University of Ferrara

Adam Smith highlights the role of division of labor in defining the productive capacity of labor, but also considers how in times of great uncertainty we must move the organization of production from 'work done' to 'work to be done', i.e. from production advantages related to the size of material production to the advantages linked to skills, knowledge, and creativity. A recent rich and heterogeneous literature defines the current phase of technological development as the 4th industrial revolution. In fact, the impact of the same technology can be different in different social contexts. This paper argues that the analytical tools of classical political economy, and of Smith's framework in particular, are central to understanding the present structural transformations of production organization and society.



20 July 2017, 8:15 pm 

Clare Hall Meeting Room

Sieber as the First Russian Marxist

François Allisson

Centre Walras-Pareto, University of Lausanne

Samuel H. Baron published in 1963 an authoritative intellectual biography on Plekhanov, the Father of Russian Marxism. In the same perspective, Soviet historiography indicated Plekhanov as the main protagonist of the birth of Russian Marxism. Yet it is possible to take an alternative view: Nikolai Sieber (1844-1888) could in fact be considered as the first Russian Marxist. Rather than dealing with the question of who came first, this paper addresses two issues. First it tries to explain the rationale behind Soviet historiography, sketching the new archival discoveries about Sieber’s short but mysterious life. Second it characterizes Sieber’s Marxism looking at four aspects: the relations between Marx and Sieber; the significance of being a Marxist in the 1870s; the place of Ricardo and of the history of economic thought in both Marx's and Sieber's work; and finally, the fate of Sieber’s master dissertation: David Ricardo’s Theory of Value and Distribution (1871).



29 June 2017, 8:15 pm 

Clare Hall Meeting Room

Trade, Industry and Markets:

Political Economy and the Nation in Early Modern France and England

Craig Muldrew

Queen's College, Cambridge

Recent writing about early modern economic thought has tended to focus on mercantilism and the national interest in terms of national competition for overseas trade and colonies. However recent work, such as the volume edited by Philip J. Stern and Carl Wennerlind, Mercantilism Reimagined: Political Economy in Early Modern Britain and its Empire, have shown that such discourses were inevitably linked to domestic economies and forms of corporate governance. In this paper, I will examine why the politics of trade and the market economy became 'political economy' in France and 'free trade’ in England and then Great Britain.



7 July 2016, 8:15 pm 

Clare Hall Meeting Room

On Ricardo and Cambridge

Geoff Harcourt

Jesus College, Cambridge

David Ricardo’s key place in the history of economic thought is well established. However, both the understanding of his Principles of Political Economy and Taxation and its role in the development of economic analysis is much more controversial. Cambridge economists have contributed significantly to both of these issues. They have played 
an important part in two extremely divergent interpretations of Ricardo’s place in the development of economic thought. Understanding how Ricardo has been viewed in Cambridge does not result in homogeneity, but in a spectrum of interpretations. This paper focuses on the role of Ricardo’s Principles in the development of economics as seen by Cambridge Economists.



23 June 2016, 8:15 pm 

Clare Hall Meeting Room

James Meade as a Cambridge Economist

Susan Howson

University of Toronto

The Nobel Prize winning economist James Meade had only been in Cambridge once, for one year, before he was appointed to the Chair of Political Economy in 1957 in succession to Dennis Robertson.   He had been an undergraduate and a don at Oxford; he had worked as an economist at the League of Nations in Geneva, for the British wartime coalition government and for the immediate post-war Labour government; he had been professor of commerce with special reference to international economics at the London School of Economics.  But that year at Trinity College Cambridge, 1930/1, had been 'the intellectually most exciting year of [his] life'.  My paper will discuss the influence of that year on his (and others') work during his years away from Cambridge and once he had returned here. 



1 June 2016, 8:15 pm 

Clare Hall Meeting Room

What does Sraffa mean by 'classical standpoint'?

 Ajit Sinha

Azim Premji University, Bangalore

In the ‘Preface’ to Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities, Sraffa identifies the standpoint of his book with that of ‘the old classical economists from Adam Smith to Ricardo’. I shall argue that the central proposition of Sraffa’s book is to establish the fact that distribution of income in terms of its rates of wages, profits and rents can be taken as given independently of prices and therefore, a solution of prices must be such that the given distribution in terms of its rates is consistently accounted for. This was fundamentally Adam Smith’s position when he argued that the ‘natural’ price of a commodity is determined by adding up the ‘natural’ rates of wages, profits and rents, given independently of prices at any moment. Sraffa’s novel interpretation of Ricardo’s theory of value, based on Ricardo’s ‘corn model’, is an attempt to pull Ricardo into Smith’s broader framework, where Ricardo is also seen to be mainly interested in establishing the fact that given subsistence wages the rate of profits is determined independently of prices. I shall argue that Sraffa needed the ‘Standard commodity’ as a unit of measure for wages and prices to establish his crucial proposition. Thus the ‘Standard commodity’ is crucial to Sraffa’s theory and not peripheral or unimportant as some leading Sraffians have been arguing.  



25 June 2015, 8:15 pm 

Clare Hall Meeting Room

F.A. Hayek vs. J.M. Keynes in the Shackle Archive 

 Constantinos Repapis

Goldsmiths, University of London


The intellectual rivalry of F.A. Hayek and J.M. Keynes has caught the attention of historians of economic thought, journalists, and the broad public recently. However, how was it viewed at the time? This paper uses archival material found in the G.L.S. Shackle collection of the University of Cambridge to determine contemporary reading responses to the theoretical developments of the 1930s. Shackle’s unique reading style that included clear and legible marginalia, while dating each of his readings, and the fact that a substantial part of his copies of three leading academic journals (The Economic Journal, Economica, Review of Economic Studies) survive in the Cambridge Archive, gives us a unique vantage point for exploring anew this period of intellectual history.

Everybody is welcome to attend.


13 May 2015, 8:00pm Clare Hall Meeting Room


The History of Economic Thought and Neoclassical Economics: Through the Prism of the Ten Commandments 

Ben Fine
Department of Economics, SOAS University of London

As neoclassical economics has come to dominate the discipline, it has also taken on the characteristics of a dogmatic religion in which axiomatic methodologies, methods, theories, concepts and assumptions prevail with at most minimal heretical variation permitted. At the same time, the history of economic thought has been entirely marginalised as if relegated to some sort of antediluvian savagery. By contrast, the position adopted here is that history of economic thought is more sinned against than sinning, and this will be selectively illustrated by viewing the mainstream’s account of history of thought through the prism of the ten commandments.


Thursday 12 February 2015, 8.30pm

Clare Hall meeting room


Albert Steenge 

University of Groningen

will present a paper on

Modern multi-sector analysis: A post-Leontief view

This seminar presents a long-term view of a branch of economic modelling known as multi-sector or input-output analysis. This type of modelling is often associated with the name of Wassily Leontief, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics for 1973. This is both correct and incorrect. Out of a set of loosely connected ideas, Leontief constructed a real theory/ model to enable an understanding of a modern economy. However, he also took a number of decisions that basically limited the scope of what multi-sectoral economics could do. Leontief’s general idea was to describe the internal structure of an economy by means of certain ‘building blocks’, such as socio-economic categories, branches of industry, types of households or production factors. The model itself is usually described in terms of specific coefficients reflecting – approximately – fixed proportions in production or consumption activities. Given a solid insight into the structure of an economy, the effects of economic policies, technological innovations, et cetera, can be investigated. Leontief’s approach worked, and in the 1930s he was able to construct a ‘Tableau écono­mique’ for the United States. His set of concepts easily survived the more than half a century that has gone by since then. However, at present new challenges have arisen due to globalisation, income distribution, resource scarcity, disruptions due to natural disasters et cetera. We argue that in order to address these issues, we will occasionally need to go back to some of Leontief’s predecessors or contemporaries, such as Ricardo, Isnard, Popov, von Neumann, Sraffa, Seton, and others.


Thursday 15 January 2015, 8:15 pm

Clare Hall meeting room

Matthias Klaes 

Scottish Centre for Economic Methodology (SCEME)

University of Dundee

will present a paper on

Revisiting the origins of the theory of the firm: Coase, 

Transaction Costs and Marginal Analysis

Coase's (1937) 'The Nature of the Firm' is commonly regarded as having extended the application of marginal analysis in novel ways to the question of firm size through the introduction of the concept of transaction costs. While a voluminous literature has developed over the past eight decades seeking to clarify and operationalise Coase's insight, his detailed arguments have received relatively limited attention. This paper addresses a number of misconceptions that have emerged as a result, by drawing attention to the origins of the article in the commerce and marketing literature of the 1920s, to its intended contribution to the socialist calculation debate, and to its conceptual roots in the divergent Marshallian and Austrian traditions at the time. In a number of respects, Coase's article had to be read as a contribution to post-war neoclassical economics in order to become accepted as such a contribution. The paper offers a historical reading and appraises the subsequent professional trajectory of Coase in the light of such a reading.

Everybody is welcome to attend.

The Convenors

Wednesday 18 June 2014 , 8:15 pm
Clare Hall meeting room

Sophus Reinert 

Harvard Business School

will present a paper on

Authority and Expertise 

at the Origins of Macroeconomics

The abstract can be downloaded below

Everybody is welcome to attend.

The Convenors

13 February 2014 , 8:15 pm
Clare Hall Meeting room

J.G. Fichte's Critique of Political Economy

Isaac Nakhimovsky
University of Cambridge and Yale University

This paper examines the German philosopher J.G. Fichte’s engagement with political
economy, particularly in his Closed Commercial State (1800), and how it was
perceived in early-nineteenth-century debate. The Closed Commercial State later
came to be known as a major early statement of German socialism because of its
defense of the right to work. More recently Fichte has been described as the first
truly modern theorist of distributive justice for the same reason. Here I hope to
clarify the character of the moral challenge that Fichte aimed at the discipline of
political economy. I hope to show that, as contemporary readers saw, the theory of
property presented in the Closed Commercial State was a sophisticated attack on the
tradition of natural jurisprudence which supplied the normative basis for evaluations
of the inequality generated by an expanding division of labour. Fichte denied that
this inequality could be justified by appealing to the principle of natural liberty.
However, he was also highly critical of those who prioritized equality over autonomy,
and Fichte’s Closed Commercial State emerges as a pivotal attempt to reclaim the
emancipatory spirit of seventeenth-century natural rights theory from its eighteenth century

Everybody is welcome to attend

30 January 2014 , 8:15 pm
Clare Hall Meeting room

Marx’s Early Reading of Political Economy

Keith Tribe
University of Bristol

Everybody is welcome to attend

20 June 2013 , 8:15 pm
Robinson College, Teaching Room A

Richard Arena 
(Université de Nice-Sophia Antipolis)

will present a paper on

Sraffa and Wittgenstein on method: 
similarities and differences

The abstract of the paper can be downloaded below.

Everybody is welcome to attend.

The Convenors

Lent Term Seminar series
Clare Hall, College Meeting Room




17th January 2013, 8:15 pm


Human Sociality and Economic Analysis


Amos Witztum  

London School of Economics


There seems to be a growing recognition that there is a social dimension to the determinants of individuals’ actions. Most of the discussions, however, are focused on the use of these social considerations to explain the prediction failures of the standard economic model of individual rationality. But there is something quite peculiar about this: first of all, why did it take so long for a social theory to recognise its social context? Secondly, other than correcting for the ‘observed’ results, what are the broader implications of this for the methodology of economics, the conception of the economic problem and the institutional recommendations for resolving it?

These are all formidable questions which go well beyond the scope of a single paper. The purpose of this paper, therefore, is merely to examine whether the attempts to socialise the rational utility maximiser are a natural progression in the development of economic theory or, an exposure of a fatal turn in the history of social thinking which led the subject into a dead-end.

We will begin by asking whether in its current state, economic theory is at all a social theory. The paradigmatic core of modern economics begins with the analysis of the individual who, as it were, is conceived to be the atom of society. The desires of that individual are asocial--as society does not yet exist-- and his, or her, economic problem is conceived to be the tension between un-satiated wants and scarcity. The presence of other individuals with similar desires but with difference abilities suggests that each one of them may solve his own problem by relating to others. Society, then, is entirely functional and is logically formed to help solve the individuals’ problem. Its existence has no impact on the initial problem which the individual is trying to solve. Subsequently, we find that efficiency is the key criterion for economic performance and that such allocations can best be achieved through the institutions of competitive markets.

But this is not the only narrative underlying the idea of interdependence. By comparison we will examine the classical narrative as it appears in Smith and Mill where society is by no means a means to an end. Agents are fundamentally social beings and seek social approbation. When they become interdependent they are taking a certain risk and the test of economic institutions is in their ability to allow individuals to achieve their social objectives. Thus, social considerations are part of the initial set-up as well as the criteria for economic performance.

To form a better judgement over these two alternatives it may be useful to look for the origins of these ideas of self-regulated systems. Naturally this will lead us back to the Enlightenment. We will focus here on Spinoza as a starting point to examine whether the development of economic thinking, in comparison to, say, political thinking, follows a coherent and logical path.

Finally, we will return to the rational utility maximiser to examine whether the introduction of social dimension to his, or her, consideration is a meaningful exercise given the fundamentally opportunistic—and asocial-- nature of the economic conception of rationality. We will also consider an alternative way of socialising the rational utility maximiser which, as one would expect, may lead to a reformulation of many of the institutional recommendations which emanates from modern economic thinking.




24 January 2013 ,  8:15 pm


Rousseau on Prudence


Christophe Salvat

Robinson College, Cambridge

For a few years now Rousseau has been studied by historians of economic thought as one of the first critics of the then rising political economy because of his writings on money, commerce and luxury. I suggest, however, that these writings are not of the utmost importance in the history of economic thought, and that his contribution to economic thinking is not limited to these scattered comments. If Rousseau really does have something to say to economists, then I contend that it is as a philosopher, and more precisely as a moral philosopher. One of Rousseau’s primary concerns is virtue, moral – of course – but also economic virtue, or prudence. Republicans have rightly emphasized the role of moral virtue in Rousseau’s political system yet economic virtue has often been neglected by scholars, except when it was deemed to be a necessary feature of citizenship. I believe, however, that prudence actually plays a much larger role in Rousseau’s philosophic system. A prudent man, for Rousseau, is a man who takes great care to self-preserve, whilst also valuing his pleasures and overall happiness. Within Rousseau’s political theory thus lies a whole, but as yet underrated, hedonist philosophy exposed in Julie ou la Nouvelle Héloïse. What kind of hedonism is Rousseau advocating? How original is his approach? What does the concept of prudence morally and politically entail? I believe that answers to these questions can not only highlight neglected aspects of Rousseau’s work but also give economists insights to question the nature of man’s rationality. 




31st January 2013, 8:15 pm

Reasons in context :

Ferdinando Galiani’s Politique économique

Olivier Tonneau     

Homerton College, Cambridge


From 1750 to the Revolution, France was the stage of intense economic debates, especially concerning the legislation of grain trade. Among the protagonists, the defenders of free trade have received the most attention from historians of economy, and even from economists such as Smith, Keynes or Krugman. Less attention is paid to Ferdinando Galiani, whose Dialogues sur le commerce des blés (1770) submitted the économistes’ theories to a devastating critique, logically, empirically and literarily. Diderot, formerly a fervent admirer of the physiocrats, literally kneeled before the man who proved them wrong; Nietzsche hailed Galiani as the smartest man in 18th-century Europe; why do economists rarely acknowledge his contribution to the development of their discipline? The answer is probably to be found in the peculiar meandering style of the Dialogues, from which it is difficult to extract a theory and thus tempting to conclude that they have little to say beyond their subject-matter. Thus Gilbert Faccarello concludes his thorough study of the Dialogues by stating that “Galiani… still confused the two levels of theory and practice” (Studies in the History of Political Economy). I will argue, to the contrary, that Galiani was acutely aware that there existed no clear delineation between theory and practice, and that the form of his Dialogues is consubstantial to his conception of a discipline he insisted on calling politique économique rather than économie politique. Although Galiani claimed to reason “mathematically”, he was aware not only of the complexity of his subject matter, but also of its intrinsic instability. Drawing upon Roberto Scazzieri’s remarks in ‘Context, Congruence and Co-Ordination’ (Reason, Rationality, and Probability), I will argue that Galiani tried to integrate in his Dialogues the circular relationship between context and rationality, the former determining the latter, which in turn must enable the agent to transcend the former. Whether it is possible to square this circle is an open question: the form of Galiani’s Dialogues needs not be understood as a negative answer, but rather as an attempt to design an open-ended form of economic reasoning.

CAMHIST Group at Clare Hall, Cambridge
Clare Hall Group in the History of Economic Analysis

A group of scholars at Clare Hall, including Antonio Andreoni, Francesco Boldizzoni, Harald Hagemann, Geoffrey Harcourt, Prue Kerr, Roberto Scazzieri and Albert Steenge is organising a seminar in the history of economic analysis.

What characterises the seminar's approach is the conception of political economy as a social discipline steeped in analytical inquiry and in the specific conditions of historical context. Following John Hicks's view that economists should know the history of their concepts in order to know what they are doing, the seminar addresses theories of the past and of the present in terms of their analytical content and historical significance. It thus aims to contribute to current discussion on the scope and relevance of economics.

CAMHIST acts as a reference point for the Cambridge community, and for the wider community of economists, historians and philosophers visiting the University. The speakers are leading figures in the field as well as younger academics from all over the world. Scholars at all levels, including graduate and research students, are welcome to attend the meetings.

The Seminar meets regularly in each term at Clare Hall, on Thursdays at 8.15pm, with a presentation of around 30 minutes followed by discussion and drinks. The venue is the College meeting room.

2008 - 2012

Seminar series



I Seminar

After Joan Robinson's The Accumulation of Capital

Geoff Harcourt (Jesus College)


II Seminar

Antonio Serra's Short Treatise on Trade and Development Revisited

Sophus Reinert (Gonville and Caius College)


III Seminar

Kalecki and Cambridge

Jan Toporowski (School of Oriental and African Studies - SOAS, London)


IV Seminar

Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark: How development has disappeared from today's development discourse

Ha-Joon Chang (University of Cambridge) 


V Seminar

Cicero and Seneca in Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments

Gloria Vivenza (University of Verona and Clare Hall)


VI Seminar

Balogh and Kaldor: Central European émigré economists and post-war British economics

Agnes Simon (Trinity College)


VII Seminar

Three centuries in search of a concept: How should we characterise the early modern economy?

Craig Muldrew (Queens’ College)


VIII Seminar

Lombard Enlightenment and classical political economy

Pier Luigi Porta (University of Milano-Bicocca and Wolfson College)


IX Seminar

A Divine Market Order? Adam Smith’s Theological Debt

Adrian Pabst (Leverhulme Research Fellow, University of Nottingham) 


X Seminar

Intersubjectivity, The Theory of Moral Sentiments and the Prisoners’ Dilemma

Vivienne Brown (Open University) 


XI Seminar

Hostage to Fortune: Edward Chamberlin and the Reception of The Theory of Monopolistic Competition

Nahid Aslanbeigui (Monmouth University and Clare Hall)


XII Seminar

'The Legacy of Joan Robinson'

Geoff Harcourt (University of Cambridge) and Prue Kerr (University of Notre Dame, Western Australia)


XIII Seminar

Postlethwayt and the Cantillons: the Mystery Deepens

Richard van den Berg (Kingston University)


XIV Seminar

The early reception of Keynes’s General Theory by German-speaking economists

Harald Hagemann (University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany)


XV Seminar

Frederick Lavington on Big Business: 'Normative' Behaviour of Effective Entrepreneurship

Atsushi Komine (Ryukoku University and Clare Hall) 


XVI Seminar

The fundamental difference between Keynes's General Theory and ‘Keynesian’ economics

Geoff Tily (Member of the Government Statistical and Economic Services, UK)


XVII Seminar

The Tropics of Folly: Changing Narratives of early modern financial bubbles

D'Maris Coffman (Newhham College)


XVIII Seminar

Crises and Revisions: On the Long-Term Cyclicalities of Economic Theory

Erik S. Reinert (Tallinn University of Technology and the Other Canon Foundation)


XIX Seminar

The Co-evolution of Macroeconomics and Capitalism: Interaction and Crises

Alessandro Vercelli (University of Siena and Clare Hall)


XX Seminar

A Conversation with L.L.Pasinetti on 

'Income Distribution (worse than ever), Growth (?), Structural Change (rediscovered at last?). Clues from the Cambridge School of Economics after Keynes,


XXI Seminar

The origins of contextually political economy and the early Italian connection

Amiya Kumar Bagchi (Tripura University and Calcutta University)


XXII Seminar

Speaking in tongues, a text analysis of economic opinion at Newsweek, 1975-2007

Tiago Mata (University of Cambridge)


Subpages (1): Call for papers
Antonio Andreoni,
13 Jun 2014, 14:30