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Piero Sraffa Biography

(1898–1983), Manchester Guardian, Economic Journal, Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities, The New Palgrave

economics cambridge commodities gramsci

Italian economist, born in Turin, educated at the University of Turin. Sraffa fled the persecution of Mussolini's Italy to come to Britain (with the help of Keynes) in the late 1920s. He became a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. Sraffa's decisive influence on Wittgenstein's later philosophical investigations is legendary; he also became a close friend of Antonio Gramsci (a friendship that sustained Gramsci during his political imprisonment). He wrote a dissertation on post-war monetary reconstruction in Italy which anticipated many of the arguments that Keynes was to propound a little later in the Manchester Guardian ‘Reconstruction Supplements’ (1922). Apart from a few brief notes and comments in professional journals, after coming to Cambridge Sraffa published just three more works, each of which has become a modern classic: an essay on the theory of the firm (Economic Journal, 1926); the definitive edition of the works of David Ricardo (195173); and an austere 100-page book on pure economics, Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities (1960). In The New Palgrave (1987), Paul Samuelson doubted whether any scholar had had so great an impact on economic science as Sraffa did, in so few writings. In 1988 the Cambridge Journal of Economics published a memorial issue devoted to his life and work. Sraffa was also the greatest economics book collector of the century; his library was bequeathed to Trinity College.

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