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An Overview of the General Theory

James Tobin

No 1093, Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers from Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University

Abstract: This paper is intended to be a chapter in a forthcoming "Second Edition" of John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, published in one single edition in 1936. The Second Edition is being edited by Geoffrey Harcourt and Peter Riach and will contain contributions by 30 or 40 authors. It is to be published by Routledge, it is hoped in 1996, the 60th birthday of the great book. Most of the contributions correspond to the chapters of the original book, and others are essays about the book or natural extensions of it. The chapter of the Second Edition I was asked to write might be regarded as a revision of Keynes's Chapter 18, "The General Theory of Employment Restated," but it is meant to be more inclusive and may appear as a preface or conclusion to the Second Edition. Each of the proposed revised chapters of The General Theory is meant to be what the 1994 author thinks Keynes would have written if he had had the time and health to prepare a revised edition by 1946. This revision, written as if by Keynes some fifty years ago, is Part I of a Second Edition chapter. In part II the modern author gives his or her own view of the state of the topic in the 1990s. Those are the functions of Parts I and II of my paper. It is a daunting task to take on the role of Keynes. It's presumptuous too. I know I can't write, either in content or style, as Keynes would have done. I have not tried to be a close scholar of the Keynes papers, inferring from them what his own second edition in the 1940s would have said. Although I have stuck close to the essential themes of 1936, as I understand them, I am sure that much of what I have written is colored by what I would like a second edition prepared by Keynes himself to have said. In Part II I discuss changes in Keynesian theory suggested by events in the world and in professional macroeconomics since World War II, and I argue that Keynes still has the better of the big debate.

Date: 1995-03
Note: CFP 947.
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Published in G.C. Harcourt and P.A. Riach, eds., A Second Edition of The General Theory, Vol. 2, 1997

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