No scholar (this site included) knows unequivocally what Sraffa ‘really meant’…

The following comment below was posted on the INET site here in the Comment section to the blog devoted to Ajit Sinha’s new book from Palgrave Macmillan (Revolution in Economic Theory: The Economics of Piero Sraffa) . I have made it a point to reject the trend in (bourgeois) academia and not be overly and unnecessarily critical the work of other scholars.  Any work that discusses Sraffa and his archival legacy is welcome.

It is however important that people are mindful and wary especially when it comes to any scholar (myself included) who claims to know what Sraffa ‘really meant’. Sraffa’s impact is very much wide open and remains very much in the nascent Prelude stage in which he wrote it…and nobody has yet to really figure it all out; to do that we (by which I mean ALL interested scholars) need to study the archival material in its entirety over several years…indeed even after 50 years since the publication of Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities, scholarship out of Sraffa’s brilliant but cryptic monograph is still in its infancy…

This is a general sentiment not addressed to any single scholar, and again includes this site as well. And this is what makes Sraffa scholarship quite exciting and very much alive, especially now on the eve of the release and digital-opening of the Sraffa Archive.

Also people should be very mindful about the context, authenticity, and correctness of any of the transcriptions in published accounts of Sraffa’s archive; and again included in this warning is my own work too. In the first place all transcriptions are taken out of context as they are the exclusive purview of the scholar who went to the Wren Library and fetched the material; in this sense all transcriptions in the published account suffer from selection bias.  And secondly, there are often serious errors and omissions in the transcriptions when compared side-by-side with the original document and/or image.  I know this was true of the transcriptions in the early version of my 2014 Research in Political Economy ‘Pool of Profits’ paper, and I was very fortunate to have had the digital images in possession to proof the transcriptions before publication, which means for that publication at least the transcriptions are ‘correct’, although there are some omissions of passages that Sraffa had crossed-out.  The same goes for the Palgrave Macmillan book co-edited with Riccardo Bellofiore (2014) Towards a New Understanding of Sraffa: Insights from Archival Research which also was published after gaining access to the digital images; accordingly all the transcriptions there too are correct.

However I also know that no other scholar has a copy of the digital images, and accordingly it is very possible, nay likely, that errors and omissions in transcription exist in other published accounts of the archive; one thing for certain is that no scholar can vouch 100% for their correctness. And this is in my opinion a problem…can anyone say ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’?…

One of the projects we are doing is to render a compete account of the archival material from D3/12 already published and point out any and all errors and omissions in transcription.  In my humble opinion it is only after such an account that scholarship which uses Sraffa’s archival material can (re)claim the status of being truly scientific and unblemished.

POST on INET site in relation to Sinha’s new book on Sraffa:

I encourage people to wait for the entirety of Sraffa’s Papers to come out before accepting any single scholar’s definitive statements about what Sraffa ‘really meant’. The fact of the matter is like all Sraffa scholars, Sinha has only perused a fraction of the archival material. Hence any definitive statements to have discovered something that nobody else has should be taken with a grain of salt. Sraffa’s archival legacy should be put first, not the agenda of individual scholars. Also people should be mindful and wary of the transcriptions that appear in any published account of the archive including those in Sinha’s book, as they are often rife with error. As the archival material finally is made public then the merits of all Sraffa archival scholarship will finally be able to be adequately judged; but until such time discerning scholars should be wary of all scholarship (including my own) that makes definitive statements about what Sraffa ‘really meant’. Scott Carter (Heretical Sraffa)

On Sraffa’s Various Introductory Comments in the Ricardo Edition as influence…

The Trinity 2.0 arrangement of Sraffa’s Notes on PCMC is an organic interfaced archive combining the Bharadwaj-Garegnani (BG) and Wren Trinity arrangements. We will have a lot to say about this in upcoming posts, but at this stage it is important to know that the methodology of the arrangement takes as its cue the manner which Sraffa handled archival material of David Ricardo and developed his Ricardo Edition, the masterful eleven volumes of The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo.

Especially insightful is the way Sraffa presents the Ricardo Correspondence, and once we begin to explore this we discover that it is no accident the title to Works includes the Correspondence, because presented here is a truly masterful scholarly treatment of David Ricardo’s correspondence. We are fortunate to have the material of the Ricardo Edition available to us on the web, through the website at the Online Library of Liberty from the Austrian website Liberty Fund.  The subtitle to the Online Library of Liberty is ‘A Collection of Scholarly Works about Individual Liberty and Free Markets’. It is ironic that an Austrian free market worshipping website is more open with the scientific literature than heterodox economists have been!  But I digresss…

To get a good idea of how we plan to go about the Trinity 2.0 arrangement, it is suggested that interested readers consult all of Sraffa’s various Introductory Notes that appear throughout the 11 volumes of the Works, and especially the Introductory notes that are in Volume VI which begins the Ricardo Correspondence, the subject of volumes VII, VIII, and IX.  In Table 1 below we have three of the main excerpts from Sraffa’s arrangement of the letters in Volume VI.

Table 1: Excerpts from Sraffa’s Introductory Notes from Works VI (see below Table 8 for complete Introductory Notes)

Preface to Volumes VI-IX
I. Ricardo’s Correspondence, p. xiii.
IV. The Letters in the Present Edition, p. xxxviii

In these Introductory notes Sraffa tells us how he arranges the letters, and the methodology and rationale behind his manner of exposition.  Specifically, what is of interest is how Sraffa numbers each letter and indicates from whom it came and to whom it is going. There is an interesting Table on page xiv of Works VI that breaks down the letters into the various correspondents, data which we can aggregate:

Table 2: Data on the Breakdown of the Ricardo Correspondence (Works VI, p. xiv)

Total % Total (to + from) To From to/from
Malthus 30.09% 167 92 75 1.227
Jas. Mill 19.28% 107 58 49 1.184
Trower 17.84% 99 54 45 1.2
Other 16.04% 89 44 45 0.978
McCulloch 13.69% 76 41 35 1.171
Say 3.06% 17 7 10 0.7
555 296 259 1.143
53.33% 46.67%

From these aggregate data, we see that the Ricardo correspondence consists of 555 letters, 30% of which are from correspondence with Malthus, 19% from James Mill, etc. on down the second column.  From the last column we see that Ricardo responded more than he received, the exception being the exchange with Say.

Sraffa numbers the letters from 1 to 555 consecutively and arranges them in chronological order.   He tells us the rationale for this in the Introductory Notes to Works VI:

“In contrast with previously published collections, the letters to and from the various correspondents have been arranged in single chronological series. The reader is thus placed as it were behind Ricardo’s desk at Gatcomb Park and reads the letters as Ricardo writes them or receives them” (Sraffa, Works VI, p. xiv)

It is this feeling of being ‘placed behind the desk’ that the Trinity 2.0 arrangement attempts to impart on the reader, here of course the desk being that of Sraffa’s at Trinity College, perhaps in his Private Room at Neville’s Court or maybe his office at the Marshall Library.  And yes this is a monumental task, because as we will see with the Sraffa papers, complete chronological order is not possible as there is tremendous zig-zagging going on analytically throughout the material.  Fortunately for us the new technology allows for us to deal with this, especially in terms of the ability to hyperlink notes, etc.

This is the attempt that is being made with the Trinity 2.0 arrangement of Sraffa’s Notes on PCMC, archived as D3/12 according to Wren Trinity.  So that readers of Heretical Sraffa can be as up-to-speed as possible, and for all of us to be on the same page methodologically, below are tables that have the links to Sraffa’s various Introductory comments throughout his Ricardo edition.  Readers are encouraged to go through these commentaries to see the manner which we conceive of the handling of Sraffa’s own archival material as being influenced by the way he handled that of Ricardo.

Sraffa’s Various Introductory Notes and Comments in his Ricardo

Table 3: The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Volume I: Principles of Political Economy

I. The Writing of the Principles, p. xiii.
II. James Mill’s Contribution, p. xix.
III. Arrangement and Subdivision, p. xxii.
IV. The Chapter On Value in Edition 1, p. xxx.
V. Principal Changes in Chapter On Value in Eds. 2 and 3, p. xxxvii.
VI. Edition 2, p. xlix.
VII. Edition 3, p. liii.
VIII. The Present Edition, p. lx.

 Table 4: The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Volume II: Notes on Malthus

Section I
Section II
Section III
Section IV
Section V

 Table 5: Works Volume III: Pamphlets and Papers, 1809-1811 

Prefatory Note to Volumes III and IV
Notes on the Bullion Essays
Appendix to the ‘Price of Gold’
Notes on ‘Notes on Bentham’
Notes on ‘Notes on the Bullion Report’
Notes on ‘Notes on Trotter’
Notes on ‘Observations on Trower’s Notes on Trotter’
Notes on ‘Observations on Vansittart
Appendix: ‘Mr. of the Bullion Report
Appendix: TABLES OF CORRESPONDING PAGES for Ricardo’s Pamphlets in the original editions, 1811, McCulloch’s edition (Works, 1846 etc.), Gonner’s edition (Economic Essays, 1923 etc.), and the present edition.
Appendix: Reply to Mr. Bosanquet’s Practical Observations

 Table 6: The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Volume IV: Pamphlets and Papers, 1815-1823

Notes on ‘Essay on Profits’
Notes on ‘Economical and Secure Currency’
Note on ‘Funding System’
Note on ‘Protection to Agriculture’
Note on ‘Plan for a National Bank’
Notes on Fragments on Torrens
A Note on Prices and Taxation 1821
Notes on the Papers on Blake
Note on ‘Absolute Value and Exchangeable Value’
Appendix: The ‘Ingenious Calculator’
Appendix: TABLES OF CORRESPONDING PAGES for Ricardo’s Pamphlets in the original editions, 1815–24, McCulloch’s edition (Works, 1846 etc.), Gonner’s edition (Economic Essays, 1923 etc.), and the present edition

 Table 7: The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Volume V: Speeches and Evidence

List of Speeches
Prefatory Note
Introduction to the Speeches in Parliament
Notes on the Evidence on the Resumption of Cash Payments
Note on Two Papers on Parliamentary Reform

 Table 8: The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Volumes VI-IX (Letters; Sraffa’s Introductory Notes all in Volume VI)

Preface to Volumes VI-IX
I. Ricardo’s Correspondence, p. xiii.
II. The Main Correspondents: James Mill , p. xv
II. The Main Correspondents: Malthus, p. xviii
II. The Main Correspondents: McCulloch, p. xxi
II. The Main Correspondents: Trower, p. xxiii
II. The Main Correspondents: Say, p. xxv
III. Other Correspondents: Bentham, p. xxviii
III. Other Correspondents: Maria Edgeworth, p. xxxii
III. Other Correspondents: Grenfell, p. xxxiii
III. Other Correspondents: Grote, p. xxxiii
III. Other Correspondents: Horner, p. xxxiv
III. Other Correspondents: Murray, p. xxxv
III. Other Correspondents: Place, p. xxxv
III. Other Correspondents: Sharp, p. xxxvi
III. Other Correspondents: Sinclair, p. xxxvii
III. Other Correspondents: Tooke, p. xxxvii
III. Other Correspondents: Wakefield, p. xxxviii
IV. The Letters in the Present Edition, p. xxxviii

 Table 9: The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Volume X: Biographical Miscellany

Note on the Authorship of the Memoir of Ricardo
Addenda to the Memoir of Ricardo:  I. Introductory
Addenda…:  II. The Family of Abraham Ricardo
Addenda…:  III. The Delvalle Family
Addenda…:  IV. Ricardo’s Childhood and Education
Addenda…:  V. Independence and Marriage
Addenda…:  VI. The Wilkinsons
Three Notes: (1) Where Ricardo lived in London
Three Notes: (2) A Note on Clubs and Societies
Three Notes: (3) A Note on Portraits
A Family’s Who’s Who:  I. David Ricardo’s Brothers and Sisters
A Family’s Who’s Who:  II. Ricardo’s Children
Ricardo in Business: I. As a Jobber on the Stock Exchange
Ricardo in Business:  II. As Loan Contractor

Ricardo in Business:  II.Loans for Great Britain and Ireland: 1805-1820

Ricardo in Business:  II.Notes on the Table Overleaf

Ricardo in Business: III. A Canard
Ricardo in Business: IV. Investment and Estates
Ricardo in Business:  V. Ricardo’s Will
A Selection of Family and Private Letters: I. Early Letters to J.H. Wilkinson
A Selection of Family and…: II. ‘Ricardo’s Letter to the Old Doctor’
A Selection of Family and…: III: The Fraud of 5 May 1803
A Selection of Family and…: IV: The Loan of 1807
A Selection of Family and..: V: Jacob Ricardo
A Selection of Family and…: VI: Two Sisters Decline a Present
A Selection of Family and…: VII: A Visit to Cambridge
A Selection of Family and…: VIII: A Letter to a Wine Merchant
A Selection of Family and…: IX: The Cumberland Affair
A Selection of Family and…: X: A Servant and Two Masters
A Selection of Family and…: XI: Fanny’s Marriage
A Selection of Family and…: XII: Ricardo to Miss Mary Ann
From Maria Edgeworth’s Letters to Her Family
Introductory Note to the Journal of a Tour on the Continent
Appendix: (A) Bibliography of Ricardo’s Works
Appendix: (B) A Survey of Ricardo Manuscripts
Appendix: (B) A Survey of Ricardo Manuscripts: Ricardo Papers
Appendix: (B) A Survey of Ricardo Manuscripts: Mill-Ricardo Papers
Appendix: (C) Commonplace Books
Appendix: (D) Ricardo’s Library
Supplement to Volume I: New Evidence on the Subdivision of Chapter VIII of the ‘Principles’ of 1817
Supplement to Volume IV: Notes on ‘A Reply to Mr. Say’s Letter to Mr. Malthus
Corrections to the First Printing of the Previous Volumes

Happy Holidays from Heretical Sraffa!

Yes it has been a while since the last post.  But fret not, we have been busy.  The idea of the videos went well and thanks to all that have viewed them.  We will definitely be using video lectures in the future and are currently thinking of ways to make them less haphazard and better production quality, and also with accompanying material such as slideshow presentations, spreadsheets, and other documents.  And as the archive becomes public we will also be studying the original material and that too will be made available to all.

We are in the process of making the Trinity 2.0 archive, that is to say the nuts-and-bolts of creating the interface for the proposed arrangement of D3/12.  This arrangement is dubbed ‘Trinity 2.0’ and represents the interface between the original (preliminary) arrangement of the material in the mid to late 1980s by Mrs. Bharadwaj and Professor Garegnani (Bharadwaj-Garegnani or BG) with the Wren Trinity (completed) arrangement by Jonathan Smith of Trinity College in the early 1990s. For a side-by-side comparison of the different metafile structures of Sraffa’s Notes on PCMC click here.

In this process we are taking full advantage of Google chrome and all the features there.  The interface we are developing is one that uses Google presentation and takes advantage of the large blank canvass provided.  What this has  allowed is for a presentation of the material in terms of a tandem screen, where the image-page appears on the left and a complete transcription on the right. I encourage people to get Google accounts as this moves forward.

We look forward to sharing these developments and more with all people interested in the archival legacy of Piero Sraffa.  As indicated in previous posts this material belongs to us all and it is up to us to takes matters into new and uncharted directions as we move into the New Year of 2017 and into the future.

Happy Holidays and a Safe New Year to All!

Click here for a brief holiday video.