Joan Robinson, Economics

Joan Robinson 1903 - 1983

Regarded as one of the renowned economists of past, Joan (Violet) Robinson was not only famous, but was one of the few female economists. She grew up in Surrey – England (born 1903), and graduated in 1925 from Girton College, Cambridge. Shortly afterwards, she married fellow economist Austin Robinson, and then moved on to be a lecturer for economics at the University of Cambridge. The then returned to become a full professor of Girton College in 1958, and four years before her death (which was in 1983), she became the first ever female member of King’s College in Cambridge, one of the branches of the University of Cambridge.

Robinson was often described as not being the type to develop a single theory, but rather to produce many. She was perhaps most famous for pursuing Karl Marx’s work, and her 1942 ‘Essay on Marxian Economics’ proved to be a platform for Marx himself to emerge on. Robinson’s essay was no doubt the reason for people to take another view on his work, and perhaps revive it and send it into political debate.

1956 saw Robinson’s book ‘Accumulation of Capital’ published. This was virtually an extension of Keynes’ theory of growth and capital accumulation. Noticing the blunt similarities of her work and his, a fellow named Nicholas Kaldor partnered up with Robinson and together they formed the Cambridge Growth Theory.

In Robinson’s later life, she strayed away from her commonly studied monetary economics, and started taking an interest in underdeveloped and developing countries, including China. However, Joan’s supportive views of the Chinese Cultural Revolution not only embarrassed many friends and enemies, but it may have also cost her a Nobel Prize in Economics. This was later seen as one of the biggest ‘oversights’ of economics; or some may call it one of the most shocking intentional neglects.