Hicks on reality and time

Research output: Working paperResearch


John R. Hicks (1904-89) had as a lifelong project to bring economic theory close to historical time. Hicks spent much time in the first part of his career on steady state economics like general equilibrium theory and the IS-LM apparatus. But in successive versions he had always been making some effort to get away. One of the main reasons for this was because he wanted to make economics more human and that he wanted to make it more time-conscious and even doing it with a more earthy way of going about it. As for Post-Keynesians Hicks was leaning against a very simple principle; the irreversibility of time!
On the other hand Hicks very early saw that the point of the method in Keynes General Theory was that it reintroduces determinateness into a process of change and from a standpoint of pure theory, the use of the method of expectations is in the optic of Hicks the most revolutionary thing about the General Theory. But in his very famous IS-LM interpretation of the General Theory it is difficult for Hicks to escape from equilibrium assumptions. In brief, the leg in time is LM, and the leg in equilibrium is IS. This paradox has later become the “leitmotiv” for economists as a contrast between change and equilibrium.
In later works it becomes clear, that Hicks is deeply dissatisfied with the Temporary Equilibrium method. He becomes more and more concerned with economic problems as problems of change, of growth and retrogression, and of fluctuation and the extent to which these problems can be reduced into scientific terms is rather limited – as economics pushes on beyond statics it becomes less like science, and more like history.
A further development of economic theory is required and like Post-keynesians Hicks in his later writings tries to find different ways to carry the development of theory on – less abstract, more history-friendly, less reductionist and technical, more concerned with real economic phenomena - many of these are in essence questions of sequential causality and more open to taking advantage of the contributions coming from other social and moral Sciences.
The main points of my paper is to describe the instructive curse of Hicks theoretical works and the convergence against the Post-Keynesian way of thinking on economic problems.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)978-87-92174-03-5
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Cite this