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The Other Sraffa - Surprises in the Archive?

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g) Ghislain Deleplace (University Paris 8 - LED, France)
Sraffa and the non neutrality of money

Since the publication of Production of commodities by means of commodities in 1960, there has been much debate about the nature of prices in the Sraffa system. Some authors have argued that they were only a special case of walrasian equilibrium prices, while others insisted that, reflecting the conditions of the production of commodities and the state of distribution, they had a specificity which went back to the old Classical surplus approach. Little attention has been however devoted to one particular aspect of such prices: their real or monetary character. As is well known, modern walrasian equilibrium prices are real prices, since their determination depends on forces which can be understood regardless of any assumption about money. Although the theory is supposed to be dealing with a monetary economy, money is then considered as neutral in respect to the determination of relative prices: whatever the way money is or not "integrated", the equilibrium price system remains unaffected. Then the question arises of whether it is the same with the Sraffa system, i.e. whether money should also be considered as neutral in respect to the determination of relative prices.

The paper first considers two ways money could be viewed as playing a role in the determination of prices: via "the money rates of interest" of 44 in Production of commodities, and via the standard commodity in which prices are measured. These two ways appear unsatisfactory. In order to clarify Sraffa's underlying conception of money prices, the paper then concentrates on the unpublished notes written by Sraffa for his 1932 article against Hayek or about General Theory. These notes exhibit three distinctions: between "a moneyless economy" and "a monetary economy", between equilibrium and disequilibrium prices, and between money as a store of value and money as a standard of deferred payments. The analysis of these distinctions suggests that, for Sraffa, the only economy in which equilibrium can be meaningful is a monetary economy: money, defined as the medium of exchange and the standard of deferred payments, is not neutral.

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Department of Economics
Faculty of Economics
University of Bergamo


December 21-22, 2010
aula 3, via Salvecchio 19
University of Bergamo - Bergamo Alta, Italy