Ashwani Saith*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


The great banyan tree of Cambridge heterodox traditions extended its roots and branches, and flourished for over a half century from the landmark year of 1926 which saw Piero Sraffa’s iconoclastic article in the Economic Journal, and John Maynard Keynes’s dramatic pronouncement heralding the death of laissez-faire. Then, within the short space of about 15 years from the mid-1970s, these lineages and most of their practitioners evanesced or were essentially purged from the Faculty of Economics and the Department of Applied Economics—the turnaround occurring as a result of a sustained campaign by the orthodox mainstream camp in Cambridge, enabled by the sea change in national and global politics from state-led or state-managed Keynesian or state-capitalist development strategies in the North and South, towards raw ‘free-market’ neoliberalism on a global scale. The Hahn-Matthews-led campaign, through a series of battles, had won its local Cambridge war and purged virtually all vestiges of heterodox economics, as well as related disciplines, from its midst; it had attained its objective of sanskritised neoclassical disciplinary purity. What then transpired the day after the battle was done, what came of the victors and what fate befell the various vanquished tribes of heterodox apostates? This chapter follows these trajectories and uncovers some expected and several counter-intuitive outcomes both within the Faculty core, which tended to lose rank in its chosen orthodox world, and on the periphery where the diverse ‘purged’ groups reincarnated themselves and rebuilt productive institutional lives, and flourishing reputations that, by many ‘objective’ measures, exceed those achieved by the orthodox economists at the core. Widely recorded student satisfaction and appreciation at the periphery contrasted with student protest campaigning against the reductionist mono-disciplinary approach of mainstream economics within the Faculty. The chapter notes also some recent developments reflecting the preferences of major donors to Cambridge economics; ironically, these donations, and nudges for a change of direction again towards regenerated forms of heterodox economics, come from some famously successful Cambridge alumni who were supervised in their Cambridge years by leading heterodox economists, and who later made their fortunes in the whirlpool world of global finance, a resonance to Keynes that is unmissable.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication Cambridge Economics in the Post-Keynesian Era
Subtitle of host publicationThe Eclipse of Heterodox Traditions
Number of pages60
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Publication series

SeriesPalgrave Studies in the History of Economic Thought

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG.


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