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Topics on the History of Radical Political Economics

Paper Session

Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018 2:30 PM - 4:30 PM

Loews Philadelphia, Anthony
Hosted By: Union for Radical Political Economics
  • Chair: David Fields, University of Utah

Economic Development and Historical Specificity in the Late Karl Marx

Natália Bracarense
North Central College


In the first volume of Capital, Karl Marx’s conceptualization of economic development as an historical process portrayed economic progress as a cosmopolitan, evolutionary, teleological process. The less-developed countries, in terms of industrial growth, could see their future reflected in the mirror of the most advanced. However, between 1870 and 1881, Marx reexamined this belief and observed the presence of heterogeneous social formations in the world. The present paper aims at analyzing Marx’s reflections on the meaning and historical possibilities of the coexistence, in varying degree, of capitalist and strong non-capitalist elements within a societal arrangement and their potential impact on our current understanding of economic development.

American Institutionalism and the German Historical School: A Marginalist Inheritance

William McColloch
Keene State College


While modern histories of economic thought commonly report that early American Institutionalists inherited an alternative approach to political economy from their engagement with, and study under founding figures of the German Historical School (GHS), the substance of this inheritance has not been closely examined. The present paper more carefully investigates this inter-relation through the work and thought of Richard Ely and others. It is argued that alongside the methodological pronouncements, and historical monographs, these early Institutionalists also carried over an awareness and acceptance of marginalist methods.

Franco Modigliani and the Socialist State

Gary Mongiovi
St. John’s University


Franco Modigliani was one of the main architects of the neoclassical synthesis between Keynes’s principle of effective demand and the orthodox theory of value and distribution. Modigliani, a refugee from Mussolini’s fascist regime, received his doctorate from the Graduate Faculty of The New School for Social Research in 1944, with a dissertation that provided an important cornerstone of the postwar neoclassical synthesis. His career bridges two worlds—orthodox economics and the progressive tradition associated with the Graduate Faculty. Early in his career Modigliani published a little-known article on “The Organization and Management of Production in a Socialist Economy.” The article was written in Italian; Modigliani never published an English version of it, and indeed never referred to it until the publication of his autobiography shortly before his death. The paper argues the case for socialism, along lines laid out by earlier market socialists like Abba Lerner and Oskar Lange. Modigliani’s aim appears to have been to lay out a practical guide to implementing a socialist program that could actually work; such a program would have to make use of the coordinating properties of the price system.

Classical Political Economy and the Evolution of Central Banks

Matías Vernengo
Bucknell University


The paper analyzes the changing ideas on the role of money and banks from William Petty to Thomas Tooke, including the works of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and Karl Marx. It analyzes the role of ideas in shaping the evolution of central bank regulation. Particular importance is given to the Bank of England’s inconvertibility period, from 1797-1821, and the ensuing debate in shaping Robert Peel’s Bank Act of 1844, which is often seen as the birth of modern central banking. The importance of the Say’s Law, and the inexistence of an alternative theory of the determination of output, is shown to play an essential role in the policy prescriptions of the so-called Bullionist authors, that won the debates that shaped central banking practices in the 19th century.

Towards a Neo-chartalist Analysis of Balance of Payments History: Administrative Capacity, Colonialism and War

Nathaniel Cline
University of Redlands
Nathan Tankus
City University of New York


Metalist and monetarist thinking suffuses international history, particularly of the 19th century and before. This has made understanding the development of international inequality more difficult. We propose examining international inequality in the 19th century through the foreign-currency denominated debts owed by different nation states and how they came about. It is our contention that these patterns of foreign denominated debt, and their political origins, can explain a large part of international inequality and how a world system comes about with dominant “key” currencies and “peripheral” ones. Our hypothesis is that the foreign-currency denominated debt of nation states emerges from three sources- the need for biophysical resources in order to form a nation state, the need for biophysical resources by European powers (colonialism) and the need for biophysical resources from abroad to conduct wars.
José Tapia
Drexel University
David Fields
University of Utah
JEL Classifications
  • B1 - History of Economic Thought through 1925
  • B5 - Current Heterodox Approaches