Joan Robinson and Modern Economic Theory pp 285-302 | Cite as

# Ideology and Time: Criticisms of General Equilibrium

## Abstract

In her first published paper, Joan Robinson stated the following methodological position: ‘a serious subject, in the academic sense, is neither more nor less than its own technique … [gradually developed in] an austere and disinterested search, not ‘for the Truth’, but for a single self-consistent system of ideas’ (1932, pp. 3–4).^{1} She saw the intellectual activity of providing unreal answers to unreal questions as part and parcel of the laborious task of finding a set of assumptions at once *tractable* and *realistic.* This view of economic theory ‘as a sequence of conceptual *models* that seek to express in simplified form different aspects of an always more complicated reality’ is defended by Tjalling Koopmans, who remarks that ‘most economists when pressed will agree to one formulation or another of such a view of the logical structure of economic knowledge’ (Koopmans, 1957, pp. 142–43). In defense of general equilibrium theory, Frank Hahn takes a similar position, arguing that ‘the Arrow-Debreu machinery gives us the best base camp for sallies into new territory’ (Hahn, 1984, p. 10).^{2}

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