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New Left Review I/31, May-June 1965


Joan Robinson

Piero Sraffa and the Rate of Exploitation

A casual reader who picked up Piero Sraffa’s Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities might be fascinated by the crystalline style in which it is written, but he would be puzzled to know why it is considered to be a contribution to economic theory of the first importance, or even to make out what question is being discussed. To attempt to give an account of the significance of the book in broad terms is to rush in where angels fear to tread, for Sraffa himself gives no indication of the conclusions to be drawn from it. The sub-title is A Prelude to a Critique of Economic Theory, and the critique is still to come. Meanwhile, however, socialist readers may have an impression that Sraffa’s argument supports their political convictions. It might be helpful to try to show what bearing the one has upon the other.

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