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Summary Article: Robinson, Joan Violet
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

English economist who, by 2001, was the only woman ever to have achieved outstanding eminence in economic theory. Her Economics of Imperfect Competition (1933) taught an entire generation of economists the microeconomics that now figures in elementary textbooks.

A stalwart defender of English economist John Maynard Keynes and a leading popularizer of Keynesian economics in the 1930s, she went on after the war to convert Keynesian short-period analysis into a Keynesian-type theory of economic growth, laying the foundation of a currently thriving school of post-Keynesian economics. In 1932 she launched the so-called ‘Cambridge controversies’ – Cambridge, England, versus Cambridge, USA – one of the most acrimonious theoretical debates to have disfigured the face of modern economics. Convinced that she had discovered a fatal flaw in standard economic theory, she moved steadily away on almost all economic questions towards a unique heterodox position of her own.

As a member of the so-called ‘circus’ of Cambridge economists who helped Keynes formulate what was to become the ‘General Theory’, Robinson played a key role in the story of the Keynesian Revolution. Her Introduction to the Theory of Employment (1937) was one of the most widely read pre-war introductions to the Keynesian system. A few years later, she published Economics (1942), a sparkling, heretical no-nonsense attempt to give German philosopher and economist Karl Marx his due as a sort of early Keynesian.

She was born into a middle-class, academic English family, descended on her father's side from F D Maurice, the great 19th-century Christian Socialist. She graduated from Girton College, Cambridge, in 1925 and shortly after married Austin Robinson, soon to become a Cambridge economist in his own right. After a spell in India the Robinsons returned to Cambridge where Joan joined the Cambridge faculty as an assistant lecturer in economics; she became a university lecturer in 1937, reader in 1949, and, finally, a full professor in 1965, retiring in 1971.

Her publications include The Rate of Interest and Other Essays (1953), The Accumulation of Capital (1956), Exercises in Economic Analysis (1960), Economic Philosophy (1962), Essays in the Theory of Economic Growth (1962), Economics: An Awkward Corner (1966), Economic Heresies (1971), and An Introduction to Modern Economics (1973; with J Eatwell).

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