Piero Sraffa

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Template:Wikify Piero Sraffa (1898-1983) was an influential economist.

He was born in Turin, Italy, the son of Angelo Sraffa, a Professor in commercial law, and Irma. He studied in his town and graduated at the local university with a work on inflation in Italy during and after WWI. Notably, his tutor was Luigi Einaudi, one of the most important Italian economists and later a president of the Italian Republic.

From 1921 to 1922 he studied in London at the London School of Economics. In 1922 he was appointed as Director of the provincial labour department in Milan, then as Professor in Political economy first in Perugia, and later in Cagliari, Sardinia. Here he met Antonio Gramsci (the most important leader of Italian Communist Party). They became close friends, partly due their shared ideological views - Sraffa was at this time a radical marxist (see [1] (http://csf.colorado.edu/pkt/pktauthors/Vienneau.Robert/sraffa.html)). He also was already in contact with Filippo Turati, perhaps the most important leader of Italian Socialist Party, whom he allegedly met and frequently visited in Rapallo, where his family had a holiday villa.

In 1925 he wrote about returns to scale and perfect competition, underlining some doubtful points of Alfred Marshall's theory of the firm. This work was completed in an article he published the following year.

In 1927, his as yet undiscussed theory of value, but also his risky political ideas, his compromising friendship with Gramsci (who had already been imprisoned under Fascism - notably, Sraffa had brought him the materials, literally pens and paper, with which Gramsci would write his "Quaderni dal Carcere"), brought John Maynard Keynes to prudentially invite Sraffa to the University of Cambridge, where he was initially assigned a lectureship. After a few years, Keynes created ex novo for him the charge of Marshall Librarian. Sraffa joined the so-called "cafeteria group", together with Frank Ramsey and Ludwig Wittgenstein, a sort of informal club that discussed of Keynes' theory of probability and Friedrich Hayek's theory on business cycles. At this time, also due to Keynes' influence, Sraffa began his research into the life and work of David Ricardo, which he undertook with an extraordinary degree of conscientiousness: George Stigler was to write later "Ricardo was a fortunate man... And now, 130 years after his death, he is as fortunate as ever : he has been befriended by Sraffa."

His "The Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities" was an attempt to perfect Classical Economics' theory of value, as originally developed by David Ricardo and others. He aimed to demonstrate flaws in the mainstream neoclassical theory of value and develop and alternative analysis. In particular, Sraffa's technique of aggregating capital as dated inputs of labour led to the Cambridge capital controversy.

There was and remains controversy about whether Sraffa's work truly constituted a refutation of neoclassical economics. Many post-Keynesian economists use Sraffa's critique as justification for abandoning neoclassical analysis and exploring other models of economic behavior. Others see his work as compatible with neoclassical economics, as developed in modern general equilibrium models. Nonetheless, Sraffa's work, particularly his interpretation of Ricardo and his "The Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities", is seen as the starting point of the Neo-Ricardian school in the 1960s.

Notably, Sraffa was associated with Ludwig Wittgenstein, who credited him with making important insights into his philosophical works Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus and the Philosophical Investigations.

Sraffa was described as a very intelligent man, with a proverbial shyness and a real devotion for study and books. His famous library contained more than 8,000 volumes, now partly in the Trinity College Library.

In 1972 he was attributed a honorary doctorate by Paris' university (Sorbonne), and in 1976 he received another one from Madrid's university.

He became rich after a long-term investment on Japanese government bonds, made the day after the nuclear bombing on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; a popular story tells that he'd received a huge amount of money which for more than a decade he'd refused to invest, waiting for a "safe" opportunity. He correctly reasoned that Japan wouldn't remain a poor country for long.

External links

it:Piero Sraffa no:Piero Sraffa ja:ピエロ・スラッファ


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