Theory, method and mode of thought in Keynes'sGeneral Theory

Journal of Economic Methodology 10 (3):307-327 (2003)

In my 1983 book, Macroeconomics after Keynes, I claimed that much that was original in Keynes was to be found not at the level of theory but in his method. Shortly afterwards, Sheila Dow's book Macroeconomic Thought (1985) introduced those of us who are not specialist methodologists to what she called the ?mode of thought?. In that book, and subsequently, it has become clear that differences in approach between those who take their inspiration from Keynes and Kalecki and those I shall loosely describe as neoclassicists lie at the level of mode of thought. Almost all post?Keynesians say that Keynes's General Theory is founded on a concern with time, uncertainty and organicism ? features of Keynes's mode of thought. Yet, as far as I know, no one has shown precisely what the relationships are between the identifiable aspects of Keynes's mode of thought and his method and theory. This is the task that this paper sets itself. I identify four key theoretical contributions and their corollaries, and show how they are related to the deeper levels of method and mode of thought. This exercise is contrasted with the three?level structure of typical neoclassical macroeconomic theory. The underlying purpose is to help modern theory develop in a fruitful way.
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DOI 10.1080/1350178032000110873
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