Sraffa’s visit to China in 1954

Introduction

Heretical Sraffa is proud to have our first Guest Bloggers, Andres Lazzarini from Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, and Gabriel Brondino from Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina.

They go through in detail two of Sraffa’s diaries regarding his visit to China in 1954.  This is an example the possibilities that can come from unfettered access to the archival material. I think that Guest Blogging is a great idea and as we get our website in better order we will have more of this.

A word on the archival convention:  The diary images show two pages, the back of the previous page (verso = v) and the front of the subsequent page (recto = r).  Hence a single image will thus be designated according to the general convention:

E{Diary Number} ff. {previous page}v-{subsequent page}r

Sraffa’s visit to China in 1954  

by Gabriel Brondino & Andres Lazzarini

[See a picture of Sraffa from 1978 posing outside of Neville’s Court in Trinity College here: E55(5r)]

In her tribute to Domenico Demarco, Professor Franca Eugenia Assante reports that in 1954 the former professor of Economic History of the University of Naples had taken part in what had been the first official Italian visit to the newly created People’s Republic of China. The official delegation from Italy was headed by Senator Mario Palermo and the members of it were a small number of renowned Italian scientists, among whom was Piero Sraffa.[note 1]

In the recently disclosed archives of Piero Sraffa, housed at the Wren Library, Trinity College, University of Cambridge, we find two diaries (E26 and E55) in which Sraffa wrote about his activities while in China (as well as other places). E26 is the Cambridge Pocket Diary for the period 1953-1954, while E55 is a Chinese red-coloured hardcover notebook bought in mid-October 1954 during the trip, presumably to write down in a clearer way annotations that are also in E26. E55 consists of roughly 200 hand-written pages, the vast majority in Italian.

The visit to China spanned from late September to mid-November 1954. The cities which Sraffa reports included Shanghai, Canton, Changsha, Shaoshan, Wuhan, Peking (now Beijing), Tientsin (now Tianjin), Anshan, Fushun, Shenyang and Nanking.

From what we can read from the E55 diary, the programmes in each of their visit had been scheduled well in advance. Normally they included visits to monuments, museums, mausoleums, agricultural cooperatives, industrial workshops, research institutes, universities, cultural associations, infrastructure developments, and mines. Quite often during the visit, the Italian delegation would attend cultural events such as theatre plays or films. In Sraffa’s notes there is plenty of evidence that the delegation had the opportunity to get a deeper knowledge of the development of that country after the 1949 revolution by interacting (through the scheme talk-questions-replies) with Chinese officers in their capacities as official hosts.

Anyone who reads these diaries will be able to appreciate that Sraffa goes into details in his description of his daily activities in China. For most of the cities visited, we can find accurate overviews of their history, demographics, climate, health and education facilities available, major economic developments, salient historical facts, major historical wars and conflicts. The material reported speaks to Sraffa’s high standard for accuracy. This is of course no news for anyone familiar with Sraffa’s economic thought. Yet in these material we find Sraffa being interested not only in economic matters (specially, but of course not limited to, the comparative figures for a number of economic variables in each of the cities, such as production, employment, and wages) but also in a broad range of issues, including education (all levels), health policies, agrarian reform, the situation with the prison inmates, arts, gender issues, etc.

On every occasion in which the delegation had the chance to raise questions in the visit Sraffa would note in detail about the issues discussed. For example, in Nanking, in a visit to a “semi-socialist” legume cooperative (E55 ff. 17v-18r), Sraffa describes how the income is distributed among its members, its relationship with the banks, the composition and age of the means of production, the role of women, the instruction of the workers, the number of families in town, the commodity composition of the labourers’ wage, the economic relations with the city from which the cooperative bought their inputs. Such examples of interest in the specific developments which were occurring in China at that time can also be found for other cities, towns or cooperatives. These diaries, it could be argued, offer a very accurate overview of issues – we can infer – in which the delegation had a profound interest (and perhaps other western countries too).

The E55 diary also contains, to the opinion of the present writers, two streams of reflection that are salient in Sraffa’s reports. One of them is his methodical consideration, on the occasion of a visit to a wool sewing workshop in Tientsin, of the “relationships between the state and the private industry” and “between workers and capitalists” (E55 ff. 34v-35r). In particular, he devotes interest in the distribution of the “net profits” among the State, the capitalists, the “workers’ welfare and awards for the advanced ones”, and the “reserves for development”. He notes the labourer’s maximum and minimum nominal wages as well as the price of a meal at the worker’s canteen.

The second reflective stream is a long account of a meeting at the Foreign Affairs Association in Peking (E55 ff. 46v-47r, E55 ff. 47v-48r, E55 ff. 48v-49r) in which the delegation was introduced to the features, development and scopes of the Chinese agrarian reform. Sraffa there describes the amount of mountainous land in China, the rural population and other basic data. He reports the figures on production and the purchasing power of farmers for 1950-51 and 1952, and the rules of distribution of product for each of the different forms of organisation (mutual aid, production cooperative and cooperative of higher form).

Further interesting issues emerging from the diaries are sundry political reflections regarding the socialist project in China. For example, in a loose page where he describes the industry in the city of Wuhan, we can read:

Socialist re-education of trade and capitalist industry:

‘to use, limit, re-educate’ is the new politics.

What does ‘abolition of the capitalist class, not of the capitalists’ mean [?] Abolition of the private firm towards the state capitalism.

Forms:

1) unified purchase of the product (production according to the plan)

2) total purchase of the product (without plan)

3) purchase order and finishing

To transform into socialist firms through state capitalism. To transform private property into socialist property. At the same time, re-education of people. When the firms will have been transformed into socialist firms, also capitalists will have become socialist citizens. This sort of transformation is the dominant feature in China.[note 2]

Sraffa ends his visit to China on 15 November (E55 ff. 52v-53r, E55 ff, 53v-54r). He then travelled to Moscow along with the delegation from 17-22 November (E55 ff. 54v-55r, E55 ff. 55v-56r, E55 ff. 56v-57r, E55 ff. 57v-58r, E55 ff. 58v-59r, E55 ff. 59v) but then he would continue alone up to Warsaw on 22-24 November (E55 ff. 59r, E55 ff. 59v-60r, E55 ff. 60v-61r, E55 ff. 61v-62r) where he meets, among others, Oskar Lange. He stopovers in Prague on the night of November 24th and writes in his diary that he would work that evening on “two pages on the agrarian reform” (E55 ff. 62r). The following day he gets to Zurich by air in the early afternoon and some hours later he rode on a train direct to Milan (E55 ff. 62v-63r). While in Milan from 25-30 November (E55 ff. 63v-64r), Sraffa meets with many people, including Raffaele Mattioli, Vando Aldrovandi and Giulio Einaudi. Again, on 27 November Sraffa “spent the day to finish the Agrarian Reform” and the same day he sent a draft of it to Francesco Flora (who lived in Bologna) who also was one of the members of the Italian delegation in China (E55 ff. 62v).

From the 1st to the 6th of December Sraffa would go to Rome (E55 ff. 63v-64r, E55 ff. 64v-65r, E55 ff. 65v), where he met with a series of personalities including Luigi Einaudi (at the time President of Italy), Palmiro Togliatti, Carlo Levi, and with some friends and colleagues (Sergio Steve, Raffaele Mattioli –again-, etc). The delegation drafted a first report for the Italian Foreign Affairs Ministry of its visit to China on 3 December at “Centro Cina” (E55 ff. 63v-64r), but Sraffa notes on 4 December that they are “waiting for the Flora report”, which arrives on the following day. On December 6th we read: “Relazione Flora pessima” [“Flora report lousy”] (E55 ff. 64v).

We do not know more from these diaries what “relazione Flora” was about. Also, we do not know what happened with Sraffa’s draft on agrarian reform (which he had sent to Francesco Flora less than a fortnight back) nor whether the “Flora report” had anything to do with the manuscript. It is possible that when more of Sraffa’s material becomes available the draft on the agrarian reform could be found for a deep examination. It will be also interesting to analyse the draft on the agrarian reform in relation to the extensive data of cooperatives, factories, labour demographics which Sraffa carefully reviews in each city or town he visited with the delegation. This perhaps may provide additional insights regarding Sraffa’s method of analysis for practical issues.

While we are looking forward to the uploading of further manuscripts of Sraffa which will certainly shed light on his views of his visit to the Asian country, it may be noted that both diaries E26 and E55 display material which goes against notions exclusively regarding Sraffa as a scholar aloof from empirical matters due to his economic thought being highly abstract. Of course a diary is just a report of a series of specific activities at some point in time, and from which we cannot derive any conclusive hypothesis about Sraffa’s thought.

But these diaries do reflect Sraffa’s analytical ability as an observer of the real world, reproduced in his very-well thought and accurate descriptions, thus showing a Sraffa taking a manifest interest in what was going on in that country under the new set of rules after the revolution in 1949. No doubt, upon release of further manuscripts, Sraffa scholars will be able to appreciate for themselves the level of accuracy and interest on the part of Sraffa on so many practical and empirical themes.

NOTES

[note 1] Franca Assante (2012), “Domenico Demarco”, Società Nazionale di Scienze, Lettere e Arti in Napoli, Naples, 2012, pp. 21-22. Other members included: Orio Ciferri (a Professor of Chemistry from University of Pavia), Francesco Flora (a historian of Italian literature from Bologna); Orfeo Rotini (chemistry) and the sinologist Piero Corradini.

[note 2] Translation by the present authors. The original in Italian reads:

Rieducazzione socialista del commercio e industria capitalista

‘utilizzare, limitare, rieducare’ è n. politica

Cosa vuol dire eliminazione dalla classe capitalista, non dei capitalisti. Eliminaz. dell’impresa privata verso il capitalismo di Stato.

Forme: 1) acquisto unificato del prodotto (prod. secondo piano)

2) acquisto totale del prodotto (senza piano)

3) ordinaz. e finitura

Transformare in imprese socialiste attraverso il capitalismo di stato. Transformare la propr. cap. in propr. socialista. Parallelam., rieducazione degli uomini. Quando le imprese saran transformate in imprese socialiste, anche i capitalisti saran diventati cittadini socialisti.

Questa specie di transformaz. è il carattere dominante della Cina.

Samuelson, Solow, and me

I uploaded a video of a story that concerns Paul Samuelson, Robert Solow, and myself here.

As a lowly and newly-minted Assistant Professor I cold-called Professor Samuelson one day in September 2006 by dialing information and getting his home phone number in Cambridge Massachusetts. He actually answered the phone, to which after introducing myself I asked the question of whether or not he thought Sraffa was a Marxist….he was enamored by the phone call and we had a wonderful 15 minute discussion about Sraffa and Marx that I will never forget. Professor Samuelson declined a request to discuss my paper at the Eastern Economics Association Annual Conference in New York City in February 2007, but he did contemplate it and sent a nice letter indicating such.

Eventually this led me to Professor Solow who ended discussing a paper of mine at that session. The panel was on the relationship between Sraffa and Marx and the presenters were Stefano Perri, Riccardo Bellofiore, and myself, and the discussants were Gary Mongiovi, Ed Nell and Robert Solow.  Riccardo’s paper was published in 2008, Stefano’s in 2010, and finally in 2014 there was published: my paper, Solow’s Comment, and my Response in Research in Political Economy edited by Paul Zarembka.

I find this story both interesting and more importantly demonstrative of the taking of chances and of not being afraid to ask questions that very few people ask anymore. And it also demonstrates the power of Sraffa and his analysis and how asking questions about his archival and intellectual legacy got the attention of two of the most distinguished Nobel Laureates in economics ever, and the active engagement of one them, even if by a then-lowly and newly-minted Assistant Professor in Tulsa Oklahoma…

REFERENCES

Bellofiore, R. 2008. Sraffa after Marx: An open issue. In G. Chiodi & L. Ditta (Eds.), Sraffa or an alternative economics (pp. 68–92). New York, NY: Palgrave.

Perri, S. 2010. From “the Loaf of Bread” to “Commodity Fetishism”: A “New Interpretation” of the Marx–Sraffa connection. History of Economic Ideas, 18, 55–81.

Carter, S. 2014. From ‘Pool of Profits’ to Surplus and Deficit Industries: Archival Evidence on the Evolution of Piero Sraffa’s Thought, Research in Political Economy (November) carter-2014-pool-of-profits-to-surplus-and-deficit-industries-rpe

Carter, S. 2014 Response to Professor Solow, Research in Political Economy (November)  carter-2014-response-to-solow-rpe

Solow, R. 2014. Comments on Scott Carter, Research in Political Economy (November)  solow-2014-comment-on-carter-rpe

Production for Subsistence Lecture Video Posted

It is important that people acquaint themselves with the content and subject matter of Sraffa’s book Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities. Accordingly we are video streaming lectures of the book on a chapter-by-chapter basis.  It is important that people get access to Sraffa’s book; you can get an early Indian version here.

You can find a video introducing this on the Heretical Sraffa Youtube Channel here. The video streamed  lectures are on The University of Tulsa media site (not the Heretical Sraffa You Tube Channel) and Chapter I Production for Subsistence can be seen here.

These lectures have both video of the lecture and more importantly a screen shot of powerpoint slide shows.  You can independently download the slides here. These slides are open-sourced so feel free to use them liberally (just do the right thing and give credit where credit is due…let’s reject the unscrupulous aspects often exhibited in academic economics and demonstrate a new way to move our science forward, collaboratively and with the development of the science as the first goal…)

You should be able to view both the slideshows and video on a computer and on devices, but you may have to download the Mediasite Mobile App which you can get on their website here.

History of arranging Sraffa’s Papers (I)

Jonathan Smith, Trinity Archivist who supervised the Wren Trinity arrangement of Sraffa’s Papers, indicates in a very instructive footnote from his entry to the 2012 Cambridge Journal of Economics Special Issue on Sraffa that ‘the history of attempts to catalogue Sraffa’s papers is not particularly straightforward’ (Smith, 2012, p. 1297, note *).

What we do know is that in 1974 Alessandro Roncaglia and John Eatwell gave a preliminary list of the material.  Smith  reports this was done in relation to the two scholars’ translation of Sraffa’s original 1925 Italian article critiquing Marshallian theory (Sraffa 1925), this article being the precursor to the more truncated 1926 version that appeared in English in the Economic Journal (Sraffa 1926).  For purposes of this translation they had asked Sraffa permission to consult the preparatory material for the 1925 and 1926 articles and while engaged in that endeavor realized how important it was to make a list of the content of the entire bulk of material. In an email exchange Professor Roncaglia related his account of this as follows:

“[W]hat I did in 1974-75, with some help from John [Eatwell], was not a catalogue or an inventory, but simply a rough list of material in Sraffa’s Trinity room, mainly with the aim of helping him to find things around and with the benefit, on my side, to talk with him on his manuscripts. Most of my time in Cambridge in that period (in all, a few weeks) was spent in preparing together with John an English translation of Sraffa’s 1925 article” (Alessandro Roncaglia to Scott Carter, December 9, 2015; reproduced with permission),

In Smith’s (2012) account Roncaglia and Eatwell (R&E) wrote to Sraffa on 8 August 1974 to which Sraffa returned the correspondence one month later. R&E then sent a letter in January 1975 and Sraffa responded several months later in June 1975, and during the interim in March 1975 we find papers listed by Roncaglia.  Smith articulates three points related to the Roncaglia-Eatwell list and exchange with Sraffa:

‘First, that the catalogue of papers that date from this period (e.g. 1974-75) are more a locations guide than a catalogue – sort of a preliminary draft that you would expect to be made before any attempt was made to order the papers.  Second, that in their second letter Eatwell and Roncaglia make it evident that any ordering of the papers was yet to take place. Third, that Sraffa forbade any further cataloguing at that time’ (Smith, 2012, pg. 1297, note *; emphasis added).

The second and third points especially are of tremendous importance.  Here evidence emerges that the ‘original order’ in which we find Sraffa’s papers has to be taken with a relative grain of salt.  In the first instance many-a-hand was placed on the material even before Sraffa’s death, as reported by Smith (2012) echoing a warning originally given by de Vivo (2001):

‘De Vivo (2001)…sounds a warning with regard to the archive as a whole and reminds us that Alessandro Roncaglia, John Eatwell, Antonietta Campus and Pierangelo Garegnani all helped with his papers during his lifetime, and we should thus be cautious in coming to any conclusions based on the arrangement of the material’ (Smith 2012, p. 1296)

And Smith reports that Sraffa himself indicated that as of 1975 the order of the papers was yet to be determined, as seen in his (Sraffa’s) reply dated June 1975 to the Roncaglia and Eatwell correspondence sent the previous January:

‘In his reply [Sraffa] explains that he feels that the questions raised  are connected with the final destination of the papers and that any work on them should cease until he had made up his mind about their final place of deposit’ (Smith 2012, p. 1297, note *).

Sraffa never made up his mind, and we can be reasonably certain that the papers in the order we find them in the Wren archive reflects the state at which Sraffa indicates in June 1975 – that is to say, the ‘final place of deposit’ remaining undetermined.

Sraffa’s died in 1983. He had appointed Pierangelo Garegnani as his Literary Executor who with Krishna Bharadwaj began in autumn of that year an account of Sraffa’s archival material.  Professor Garegnani (2003) in an article first published in Italian in 1998[1] recounts the story in the following way:

‘In autumn of 1983, shortly after Sraffa’s death, and then in Spring 1984, Professor Krishna Bharadwaj of Nehru University, New Delhi and myself made a first reconnaissance and inventory of the manuscript material, not least to ensure nothing got mislaid when it was moved from Sraffa’s rooms in Trinity or in the Marshall-Library to a store-room of the College.  In fact, only an index of the manuscripts a few pages long existed before then, drawn up by Professor Roncaglia, when helping Sraffa tidy up his papers in around 1974.

The inventory thus carried out immediately after Sraffa’s death was followed by a more detailed examination and systematic listing of the manuscripts as a preliminary to working on them (Trinity College, the owner of the papers, postponed a professional cataloguing of the papers; cataloguing was begun only after the papers were made available to the public, in early 1994).  The systematic examination and listing of the manuscripts was rather laborious because of their, for the most part, extremely fragmentary nature; for example, all the pages in the enormous mass of material had to be numbered. It was on this basis that the papers were microfilmed at the University Library in 1987. This job took up almost all the time that Professor Bharadwaj and I could devote to the manuscripts up to the summer of 1987’ (Garegnani, 2003, p. 623).

Here we find that the original Bharadwaj-Garengani (BG) arrangement of 1983-89 underwent two stages.  The first is the preliminary inventory accomplished immediately after Sraffa’s death ostensibly which followed the Roncaglia-Eatwell (R&E) list of a decade earlier, and second ‘a more detailed examination and systematic listing of the manuscripts as a preliminary to working on them’.

It is in the first preliminary inventory of 1983-84 that we conjecture the meta-structure of files in the BG arrangement was set, following the same method as the R&E list, as in both R&E and BG the different collections of files were identified according to the location they were found in Sraffa’s various quarters.  We know this is the case for R&E given Smith’s identification of it more as a ‘locations guide’, something made explicit in their letter to Sraffa dated 8 August 1974:

‘[W]e have already helped you to conduct a number of searches in your rooms and now we have a good idea of what papers there are, where they are, and what papers are, at the moment, missing.  We have so far compiled two lists of materials, one relating to the cupboard left of the entrance door, the other the brown paper packet at present in your room at the Marshall Library’ (Roncaglia and Eatwell to Sraffa, quoted in Smith 2012, pg. 1297, note*).

Both Kurz (2009) and Smith (1998) tell us that the same ‘location method’ was used in the meta-file convention adopted in the BG arrangement:

‘After [Sraffa’s] death the late Krishna Bharadwaj and Pierangelo Garegnani produced a valuable inventory and numbering of the papers so that nothing should get lost in moving then from Sraffa’s room in College to the place of storage.  The inventory was based on the locations where the papers had been found in Sraffa’s rooms and the grouping he had given them.  Bharadwaj and Garegnani also began to examine the manuscripts.  Jonathan Smith, archivist, then produced the catalogue of the papers on behalf of Trinity College, which is the one now generally used’ (Kurz 2009, p. 266)

For his part Jonathan Smith characterizes the BG arrangement as follows:

‘In a codicil to his will, Sraffa named Pierangelo Garegnani as his literary executor and it was to Garegnani that the task was left to bring together the physical remains of Sraffa’s literary estate.  Much important material was in Sraffa’s room in Neville’s Court, the second court of Trinity College, in bookcases, chests of drawers and suitcases….Although some papers were in good order, others were something of a jumble. Further material…was in the rooms that he had used as Librarian of the Marshall Library of Economics. In the early months of 1984, Garegnani and Krishna Bharadwaj prepared a rough inventory of the papers as they found them in two locations, before they were boxed and removed to library storage.  From May 1985 to June 1986 Professor Bharadwaj worked on the papers under the supervision of Garegnani.  In this time she was able to work her way through the papers, item by item, identifying and assessing the significance of each piece.

A more detailed catalogue was prepared and items were individually numbered and prepared for microfilming, which was undertaken by the Photography Department of Cambridge University Library.  Although the Bharadwaj list is fundamentally flawed in archival terms, this intermediate catalogue is most important in helping to preserve the order of the papers as Sraffa left them (it is clear that Garegnani and Bharadwaj knew the importance of this). There is a map of the locations of papers as they were found in Sraffa’s rooms, and what initially seems to be clumsy references to “Green Chest, Bottom Drawer” or “Horizontal piling” give useful clues to the arrangement of the papers while in use’ (Smith 1998, p. 44).

Cleary the accounts of Garegnani, Kurz and Smith resonate.  In each we find the BG arrangement broken into two distinct phases; an initial inventory based on the Roncaglia-Eatwell list or ‘location’s guide’ of the various piles in Sraffa’s rooms, and a later more developed arrangement of the material, one that as we discover took conceptual content of the material into account.  The end of the BG endeavor can be marked as 1989, after which Bharadwaj began to experience health problems, which as Garegnani[2] informs us, interfered with her continued work on the papers, precipitating her premature death in 1992 at the young age of 57. [3]

NOTES

[1] ‘Sui manoscitti di Piero Sraffa’, Rivista Italiana degli Economistii (Journal of the Società Italiana degli Economisti), April 1998.

[2] ‘After 1987…deterioration in Professor Bharadwaj’s health hindered her work increasingly until her premature death in 1992, shortly before she had planned a visit to Italy, so we could resume work on the Sraffa manuscripts’ (Garegnani 2003, p. 624).

[3] Geoff Harcourt’s (1993-4) Memoir of Mrs. Bharadwaj in the JPKE recounts the trying time she had while engaged in this arrangement:

‘The last time I saw Krishna for any length of time was when she came to Trinity in the middle and late 1980s to put some order into Piero Sraffa’s papers; Piero had died in September 1983 and Pierangelo Garegnani, his literary executor, asked Krishna to help with this mammoth but vital task.  It was a time of great tension for Krishna for her love of Sraffa himself and her belief in the importance of his contributions obliged her, she thought, to take on this daunting task; yet she also felt keenly the sacrifice of time she would otherwise have spent working in India on pressing Indian problems. This created an insoluble dilemma for her, a sense of ambivalence and doubt as to whether she had done the right thing, made the correct choice, and I fear that the psychological trauma all this undoubtedly caused her was a significant factor leading to her final illness.  Certainly I had never before seen her so agitated and unhappy, working–effectively as ever and as long hours as ever, but without the usual resilience and joie de vivre that went with her sense of purpose and drive. It was desperately worrisome for her friends to see her health deteriorating under the strain; we could offer support but not really relieve her of the essential burden and pressure. I was glad to learn the other day (January 1993) that the papers are in order and catalogued, although not yet opened, for this is another vindication of Krishna’s devotion and work-but at what a cost.’ (Harcourt 1993-4, p. 308).

REFERENCES

de Vivo, G. 2001. ‘Some notes on the Sraffa papers,’ pp. 157-64 in Cozzi, T. and Marchionatti, R. (eds), Piero Sraffa’s Political Economy.

Garegnani P. 2003, ‘On Piero Sraffa’s manuscripts,’ English translation of an edited version of a paper published in April 1998 in Rivista italiana degli economisti, the journal of the Società Italiana degli Economisti. In Kurz, H. and Salvadori, N. (eds), The Legacy of Piero Sraffa, two vols. In Intellectual Legacies in Modern Economics. Cheltenham and Northampton, Edward Elgar, 623-625.

Harcourt , G.C. 1993-4, ‘Krishna Bharadwaj, August 21, 1935 – March 9, 1992: A Memoir,’ Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, 16 (2).

Kurz, H. 2009, ‘Preparing the edition of Piero Sraffa’s unpublished papers and correspondence,’ Cahiers d’économie Politique / Papers in Political Economy vol. 2, no. 57, 261-278

Smith, J. 1998. ‘An archivist’s apology: The papers of Piero Sraffa at Trinity College Cambridge,’ Pensiero Economico Itlaniano, vol. 6, 36-54.

Smith, J. 2012. ‘Circuitous processes, jigsaw puzzles, and indisputable results: Making the best use of the manuscripts of Sraffa’s Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities,’ Cambridge Journal of Economics, vol. 36, no. 6, 1291-1301.

Sraffa P. 1925. ‘Sulle relazioni fra costo e quantita produtta”, translated as “On the Relation Between Cost and Quantity Produced” by Eatwell J. and Roncaglia A.,in L.L. Pasinietti (ed.). (1998) Italian Economic Papers, vol. III, Bologna: Il Mulino; Oxford: Oxford University Press:  323-63

Sraffa, P. 1926.‘The Laws of Return Under Competitive Conditions’, Economic Journal, 36: 535-50.

Sraffa, P. 1960.Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities: Prelude to the Critique of Economic Theory. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

 

A Road Map Through the Sraffa Archive…

Sraffa’s archive material will be uploaded onto the Wren Trinity website in short order.  Already with Section E online we have access to Sraffa’s diaries.  I have been assured that in relatively short order we will have Section D up as well. Section D is the heart of the archive.  It contains Sraffa’s Notes (D1), his Lectures (D2), and his publications (D3).

It is important that a road map be provided through this archival material.  This is because in relatively short order tens of thousands of color images will be made available to the world. This means that scholars and others interested will find that they can become easily lost in this forest as they stumble amongst the various trees. What we will try to provide on this blog and website, and also on our new Heretical Sraffa Youtube channel, is a forum whereby we can all gain understanding of the nature of the forest so that we are not lost among the trees.  I have an introductory video at the Youtube channel link above that speak to this.

The next blogpost will discuss the history of the different arrangements of the material.

On the bright future for Sraffa archival scholarship…

The uploading of Sraffa’s archival material is an important milestone in the development of the archival and intellectual legacy of the Italian Cambridge economist.  It is significant that scholars and interested people everywhere are beginning to have access to images of Sraffa’s material written in his own hand.

With the uploading of Sraffa’s Diaries, people are able to see for themselves the potential of the digital archive.  Here everything is uploaded and scholars and interested lay-people everywhere can view and study the material. The potential is tremendous and I cannot stress how exciting this will all be in the next several years and then some.  We are fortunate indeed to be able to finally see the development of the thinking of this brilliant mind.

An issue that we have to deal with for all of the archival material uploaded on the Wren website is the organization the material.  The material uploaded on the Wren website will not be organized conceptually, and instead represents the way in which one would view the material at the Wren. This means that across the archive we will have raw virgin material that needs to be collected, organized, and made useful for scholarly study.

This is huge news especially for interested and younger scholars that want to explore the material for themselves. This will become increasing true as more and more of the material is uploaded.

So what I would like to get started is some kind of online collective effort to organize, collect, and conceptualize the material.  For example take the diaries. Currently we have no concordance or table for their contents. Well if people are interested and industrious, then we can divvy-up portions of the material and following some general unified structure people can take responsibility of certain sections (i.e. years) of the diaries to provide some general account of what is in each file.  We can organize all of that on this  website, which currently exists as a blog only but will expand into a website proper in short order.

What I ultimately envision is a Wiki-Sraffa Archive, where anyone who is serious and undogmatic no matter the ideology is welcome to play a role. And there is a lot to do! Already you can see how many diaries and entries Sraffa has!  Once we start to get a handle on the content of these various files it will much easier to put them to use in terms of conducive and effective study of the material.

Specifics of the Diaries

Because of the time constraints that occupy all of us who visited the Wren, my time there has mostly been spent in Sraffa’s Notes on PCMC (D3/12), venturing out only on a few occasions to the Lecture Notes on the Advanced Theory of Value of 1927-31 (D2/4), the Black Notebook from 1943 (D1/91) which include Sraffa’s Notes on Bortkiewicz, and some of the important books in Sraffa’s vast library, such as his copy of Capital Volume I he read while interned at on the Isle of Man from July to September 1940. So just like most of you this is the first time that I have seen Sraffa’s Diaries!

Looking at the diaries in Section E in some detail we see that Wren has uploaded 49 different files that represent Sraffa’s personal diaries from 1927 to 1977.  As people work though the diaries there are a few of things that should be kept in mind:

  1. These diaries are small in physical size, maybe about 3 inches by 1.5 inches. But Sraffa’s writing was very small in size, often so small that he could almost pen a paragraph on a postage stamp!
  2. In the main these diaries record only what Sraffa was doing and his agenda. A lot of it is in Italian and yes we have people involved in our project who are native Italian speakers, and by ‘our project’ I include anyone who is serious about this effort.
  3. Really this is the first time that people can peruse the material with ease.  Accordingly for those who simply want to begin from the start and go all the way through, please make a record of your activity.  Specifically we need to make an account of the content. I will have more to say about this and as this website is developed we will have a place for people to submit any such content.
  4. For those who are familiar with Sraffa’s life and his intellectual activity, one of the best ways to approach these diaries is to recall specific points in Sraffa’s life that were associated with intellectual and other activity, and then see what Sraffa writes in his diaries.  Again, make an account of the content. As two examples of this consider the following important dates in Sraffa’s life:

Internment at Metropole Internment Camp, July – September 1940.

As a citizen of Italy which in 1940 was a belligerent nation with the UK, Sraffa was sent to internment at Metropole Internment Camp on the Isle of Man in July 1940.  The relevant diary is E12, and you can follow Sraffa’s activity up until July 1940 where he marks his calendar with a bold ‘X’ and next to it the word ‘internato‘ , the Italian word for ‘internee’.  The Diary ends here and the next one (E13) picks up in October 1940, after Sraffa was finally released at the behest and insistence of Keynes among others.

Sraffa goes to the Island of Majorca, January – March 1955

In January 1955 Sraffa left for the Island of Majorca to work on his book. In his entry for the Memorial Issue on Sraffa at the Cambridge Journal of Economics in 1988,  Brian Pollitt writes of the impact of Maurice Dobb in Sraffa’s editing work on The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo where we find the following account of the story:

“On 3 January 1955 Dobb reported that ‘Piero is just back from interesting voyagings on the other side of the world; Ricardo Vol. X (should) be out about Feb; and he’s now off for a stay in Majorca – hoping to do some work (non-Ricardo) of his own, tho’ not too hopeful that he actually will’…The work that Sraffa hoped to do in Majorca, of course, was begin that process of thought and assembly of past thoughts that eventually emerged as Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities. That he would have felt able to do this before the publication of his edition of Ricardo seems unthinkable’ (Pollitt, 1988, p. 64).

In looking at the diary E27 from 1954-55 we find this story borne out.  Sraffa titles the whole diary ‘1954-55 Majorca‘. The diary begins the first week of December 1954. This is important because generally December was often a month of tremendous intellectual activity for Sraffa and one can see this when going through the material in D3/12; indeed I have always been struck by the amount of work he got accomplished on Christmas Day and New Years Day for several years; it seems that when other people were celebrating Sraffa was often busy with his work.

As we see from the Pollitt quote, by December 1954 Sraffa had finished his Ricardo, the last of the ten volumes were sent to press (Volumes I, II, III, and IV were published in 1951; Volumes V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, and X in 1955; Volume XI in 1975). Of course he would come back to finish his Index to Ricardo’s Works in 1974-5, but the completion of Volume X marked the end of his editorial responsibilities and the beginning of the third phase of his intellectual activity and the final push to write his book. And when we look at his diaries from the time, we find a fascinating litany of people he met with before embarking on his journey, some of whom are:

Week of December 8 – 11, 1954: ‘Joan’ (Joan Robinson); ‘Nicky’ (Nicolas Kaldor); ‘Garegnani’ (Pierangeli Garegnani); ‘Tarshis’ (Lorie Trashes); ‘Austin’ (Austin Robinson)

Week of December 12-14, 1954: ‘Joan’, where Sraffa writes in parentheses ‘storia Kahn-Kaldor’, where ‘storia’ is Italian for ‘history’

Week of December 15-18, 1954: ‘Joan’

Week of December 22-25, 1954: ‘Joan’; ‘Austin’; ‘Brunner’ (Carlo Brunner), and a ‘Mrs Pettoello’ on Gramsci

Week of December 26-28, 1954: ‘Kahn” (Richard Kahn);’Brunner’

Week of December 29, 1954 – January 1, 1955:’ Kahn’; ‘Mrs (?) Harry Johnson’; ‘Telefonata da Mattioli’

Week of January 2 – 4, 1955: ‘Walk with Kahn and Joan’; ‘Maurice’

People can click on each of the weeks and see for themselves the complete list of names as I only highlight a few notable ones that stand out to me.  Clearly Sraffa had a busy schedule and met often with people in the days immediately preceding his trip to Majorca, where he was to work on what he called his ‘economics’.  On December 27 Sraffa had evidently made arrangements for Majorca with ‘…book BEA for Majorca…’, and the diary entries for the week of January 5 are chock full of entries related to travel plans.

I encourage people interested in the third phase of Sraffa constructive activity to go through the diaries beginning here, with Majorca. We have much to say in subsequent posts, but it is here we find Sraffa begins his final phase in the eventual publication of his book, and although I have not yet gone through them, I am certain that the entries from here until 1961 or 1962 will be full of very interesting tidbits of information regarding the writing of his book, especially as regards the people with whom Sraffa met.

References

Pollitt, B. H. (1988) ‘The collaboration of Maurice Dobb in Sraffa’s edition of Ricardo’, Cambridge Journal of Economics, 12, pp. 55–65.

BREAKING NEWS: SRAFFA’S DIARIES NOW ONLINE!!!

It is with great pleasure that I (unofficially) announce that FINALLY the world can see some of Sraffa’s archival material!  Sraffa’s diaries (Section E of the Wren Trinity convention) are now online at the Wren Library website. You can get the link here. We will make much use of the diaries in future posts on this blog in the process of discovery of Sraffa’s scientific journey.

This is amazing news for Sraffa scholars and others who have interest!  I have been assured that the next round of images uploaded will be of better quality, but the quality here is still pretty good!

Thanks to Jonathan Smith, Giancarlo de Vivo, and Murray Milgate for their ongoing work in making this possible. We are now seeing the first fruits of what in an earlier post I called the ‘de Vivo online endeavor.’

And thanks are especially due to Lord Eatwell, Sraffa’s Literary Executor, for his vision in opening the material and making it accessible for all interested scholars worldwide.