Friday, September 2, 2016

Joan Robinson Bio Sketch

Joan Robinson

Joan Violet Robinson was a British economist born on October 31, 1903.  She graduated from the University of Cambridge in 1925 with a degree in Economics.  She married fellow economist Austin Robinson and had two children. She went on to teach at the University of Cambridge from 1931-1971, but she did not become a full professor until 1965.  She was also part of the "Cambridge Circus", a group of scholars who helped John Maynard Keynes develop his theory on full employment.  She was nominated several times for the Nobel Prize because of her work in the field, but she never won, quite possibly because of her strongly left-leaning political views or her gender.

Robinson's work was highly influential in the field of Economics.  Her book The Economics of Imperfect Competition contributed heavily to the idea of monopolistic competition.  It is one of the main reasons why most economists believe that industries/firms are neither perfectly competitive or completely monopolistic.  Robinson was also the first to define macroeconomics, which was later described in one of Keynes' books. 

Robinson's work is especially important because she questioned norms (in Economics and in the world as a whole) and shared ideas which sparked debate.  For example, she claimed that capital cannot be fully aggregated or measured.  She also insisted that economics is about real world problems.  She brought attention to many issues in the world, including the dangers of capitalism and the arms race.  She did not go easy on herself and encouraged students to work hard and admit to what they did not know. 

I only heard about Robinson briefly before this course, when my AP Economics teacher in high school told us that it was actually a woman (Robinson) who first defined macroeconomics.  Her work will be very influential/important in class as we discuss the problems organizations face and think about how things "could have been" in contrast to what they are.  Robinson's influential work questioned existing standards in Economics, and hopefully we will continue to question the standards that organizations hold themselves up to.


1 comment:

  1. Joan Robinson was definitely among the most important economists of the first half of the 20th century and the Cambridge Circus was extremely important for the development of the profession thereafter and offering a counter force to the neoclassical (markets always work) approach. We won't really see her work in our class, but it is good to recognize her contribution.