Harmonic and Conflict Views in International Economic Relations: a Sraffian View

  • Sergio Cesaratto


In dealing with the European crisis and the frequent accusation of German ‘mercantilist behaviour’ (Cesaratto, 2011, 2012b, 2013; Cesaratto and Stirati, 2011), it seemed natural to look for analytical approaches to international economic relations (IER) that went beyond naive pro-European rhetoric and mainstream economic beliefs in the harmonic virtues of international laissez-faire. Some Sraffian contributions to the demolition of these beliefs will be recalled below. The pre-laissez-faire, mercantilist tradition was another natural candidate for attention. Mercantilism, the world of non-harmony, may be envisaged as an underground tradition, which a group of northern European economists called ‘the other canon’ (, parallel to the laissez-faire tradition. Kalecki’s view of net exports as a way of realising profits also buttresses a conflict view of IER. A cynical view also springs from political realism, a major tradition in political science. An intellectual father of political realism was Thomas Hobbes, contemporary of many British mercantilists. In this tradition, a social contract is enforceable at domestic level by attributing authority to the Prince, but not at international level where sovereign states do not submissively recognise any higher authority. Mercantilism and political realism converge in international political economy (IPE), a field that arose in the early 1970s as an attempt to bridge the gap between the disciplines of international economics and international relations (Strange, 1970).


Comparative Advantage Real Wage Political Realism Trade Surplus Social Surplus 
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  • Sergio Cesaratto

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