Alessandro Roncaglia has been analyzing Piero Sraffa's contributions and how they fit into the context of the developments of economic theory since the time of the classical political economists on. In particular, he has concerned himself with how the structure of Sraffa (1960) prices in Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities are to be interpreted in relation to both Sraffa's (and our) predecessors and as a contribution to modern economic theory. In his comprehensive volume on Sraffa in Tony Thirlwall's important series, Great Thinkers in Economics, Roncaglia (2009) identifies three major interpretations of what Sraffa has done and where he may have wished developments of his contributions to go: a Smithian interpretation, a Ricardian interpretation and a Marxian interpretation. Along with his mentor, Paolo Sylos-Labini, Roncaglia places himself in the Smithian stream. He identifies Heinz Kurz and Neri Salvadori especially in the Ricardian stream and Pierangelo Garegnani especially in the Marxian stream.
While I greatly respect his arguments and provision of evidence in the public domain, I want to argue here that the Marxian stream is the most appropriate one, both for interpreting Sraffa's own views and inclinations and for providing relevant theoretical developments to aid our understanding of the structure of, and processes at work in, the modern capitalist world. In arguing this I am comforted by the fact that, for example, the late Krishna Bharadwaj, whose understanding of Sraffa and his works was second to none, Giancarlo de Vivo, the late Pier Luigi Porta and Luigi Pasinetti are in overall agreement with such a take on these important matters.
Many years ago I published an exploratory and speculative paper, “Marshall, Sraffa and Keynes: Incompatible Bedfellows?” (Harcourt, 1981). Its principal objective was to examine the role of the concept of a center of gravitation in the contributions of these three great political economists. I pointed out that Alfred Marshall was trapped in a dilemma partly of his own making, partly because his principal method of analysis was akin to that of classical physics, while his “vision” of the society he was observing and analyzing was of an evolving organic system. The Mecca of economists was therefore biology, not physics.