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» Economics » Economist (20. Jh.) » Topics begins with P » Piero Sraffa

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Piero Sraffa (* 5 August 1898 in Turin; "† 3 September 1983 in Cambridge, Great Britain) was an Italian economist.


Sraffa developed a theory of the production prices. Its beginning is that each commodity needs goods in a certain quantity for its production. For each commodity thus an equation can be set up, in which one specifies, which is necessary for their production other goods in which quantities. If this happened for each commodity, I received a set of equations, which indicates, in which relationship the different goods to be exchanged to have. If a commodity of the is, then all prices are given. However the set of equations has still one "degree of freedom ", so that a size of, for instance the wages, must be specified. If one assumes for example the workers must buy a certain Warenkorb, so that they can receive their worker (Subsistenzlohn), then this definition took place. When "remainder size remains "the profit and a profit rate leaves itself also to then calculate, which is the lower, the is specified more highly the wage rate. If the profits are differently expressed fully reinvested into more workers and more means of production or, the multi-product is used each time fully for the extension of the overall economic Produktionsumfanges, then the economy with a rate, those grows is just as high as the profit rate (of the consumption of the entrepreneurs also one foresees). If the profit rate amounts to about 5%, then each year 5% more workers are adjusted and it is produced annually by all 5% more.

Sraffa and Ricardo

With Sraffa the profit rate must sink, if the wages rise. The same had already maintained David Ricardo. Therefore the Sraffaschule is called also neoricardianisch. With Marx against it both the wages can sink, and the profit rate, if for instance the capital expenditure for means of production increases accordingly strongly.

Sraffa was also the publisher of the collected works David Ricardos.

Sraffa and the Neoklassik

Sraffa understood its model as criticism at neoclassical models. Its model led to "reswitching "- the debate. According to Neoklassik rising wages lead to the fact that the capitalists production engineering select, which needs less work but more means of production such as machines. The capitalists evade thus to the expensive becoming work and select for it techniques, which need for the reconciliation of more means of production. They substitute work through "capital ".

Sraffa compared different techniques with one another with different working intensity, especially he regarded, as the profit rates develop with the different techniques, if the wages rise. With all techniques the profit rate will sink, but the sequence of the techniques arranged according to the size of the profit rate can change thereby. Perhaps a technology, which exhibits the highest profit rate with low wages, drops back, if the wages rise, can however again the highest profit rate get, if the wages continue to rise. For the capitalists this that they change with rising wages to another technology with higher profit rate, is called continues to rise the wages however, changes it again back ("reswitching "), because the old technology exhibits again the highest profit rate now. The fact that this can result under certain circumstances contradicts the neoclassical production theory, which does not plan this case.

Capital controversy

The Neoklassik assumes in its production functions that by the factors of production work and "capital "certain quantities are used. The problem that with the capital stick goods train locomotives and drawing pins cannot be added so easily, is solved by the fact that the prices of the different capital goods are added to a size, so that a capital stick at a value of sound as much billion euro is present. "Pure ones in timing are again out-counted thereby on certain procedures.

After Sraffa this is not permissible. If the trade unions implement for instance a higher wage rate, then this (under the Sraffa acceptance like uniform new profit rate in all industries) decreases the profit rate and changes all prices of the goods, also the capital goods such as goods train locomotives and drawing pins. The size of the capital stick as sum of the prices of all capital goods depends thus on which wage level is implemented, which contradicts the neoclassical acceptance one "material "given capital stick. Profit rate and capital stick can be determined not independently, but only simultaneously. The argument around this problem is called capital controversy.

Sraffa and the Marxist economic theory

By its criticism to the Neoklassik was arranged Sraffa as a left economist. Its models seemed to offer also a modern mathematical basis for the marxsche economic theory. The Marx statements were examined on the basis the Sraffa model, were not confirmed in each case.

Work value teachings

Thus the model permits the computation of work values, thus how much work time is directly and indirectly over the Vorprodukte in the individual goods in it, which can do same however for each important product as coal or steel are exactly the same carried out. Why thus work values, if steel values go exactly the

Law of the tendentious case of the profit rate

Also this law was mathematically examined and disproved within the Sraffa world. If the Subsistenzlohn is given and if an individual capitalist can select a production engineering with smaller employment at workers, for it increased employment at means of production and for itself a higher profit rate to obtain in such a way, then this, if the new technology were generally accepted in the respective industry, leads also overallally economic to ever higher profit rates. Marx had maintained the opposite.

A political classification

Social Democrats originally appointed themselves to Marx, came however gradually to a ever more favorable estimate of capitalism, so that also the Marxist economic theory was ever more analyzed. Keynes had shown (or seemed to have shown), as economic crises arise, in addition, by national measures again to be overcome to be able, without having to abolish equal capitalism. It stood thereby between the market fundamentalists on the one hand and for the fundamental opposition marxism on the other hand.

A gap in the keynesschen theory formed however the long view. Keynes had said "long-term is we all dead "and its conception of "a marginal efficiency of the capital "sinking on a long-term basis reminded suspiciously of the Marx law of the tendentious case of the profit rate.

From therefore it it met favorably that with Sraffa a further was found on the left of economist who can be estimated, its theory in addition suitable seemed themselves, also the long-term crisis and stagnation tendencies, like it the Marx theory stated and through Keynes yet was not disproved to question with appropriate political consequences (reformism).

Criticism at Sraffa

With the Sraffa proceeding the komparativ static analysis is to be criticized. Different national economies are compared with one another, which use a certain production engineering. If it comes to a technical improvement, then one examines, how a national economy with this new technology behaves. Within the Sraffa world it is actually trivially that regards national economies with ever better production engineering in such a way ever more rapidly grow can, thus ever higher "profit rates "exhibits.

With Marx against it the introduction of new techniques is a procedure not coming to the peace, constantly old plants by technical progress cancelled, which reduces the profit rate, ever larger parts of the profit does not serve any longer the creation of additional jobs, but the increased use of means of production for each job. This dynamics cannot be seized by Sraffa models.

Work (selection)

  • Sraffa, Piero: Goods production by means of goods. Epilogs of Bertram Schefold (1976 1960]), Suhrkamp publishing house Frankfurt/Main


  • Freeman, Alan (1996): Price, VALUE and profit - A continuous, general, treatment in: Freeman, Alan and Carchedi, Guglielmo (Hrsg.) "Marx and non equilibrium economics". Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, UK, Brookfield, US

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