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  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: September 2009

16 - Piero Sraffa

Summary

First writings: money and banking

Piero Sraffa (1898–1983) is one of the leading intellectuals of the twentieth century: not only for his strictly economic contributions, but also for his influence on others, from Antonio Gramsci to Ludwig Wittgenstein.

In the field of economic sciences, Sraffa's cultural project is an extremely ambitious one: ‘to shunt the car of economic science’ in a direction opposite to that indicated by Jevons, one of the protagonists of the ‘marginalist revolution’. With his writings, in fact, Sraffa aims to expose the weak points of the marginalist approach as developed by, for instance, Jevons, Menger, Walras, Marshall, Böhm-Bawerk, Hayek and Pigou and at the same time to repropose the classical approach of Adam Smith, David Ricardo and, in certain respects, Karl Marx. In order to better understand its nature and impact, it may be useful to follow the gradual development of this cultural project, from the first writings on money and banking to the edition of Ricardo's works and the small but dense volume on Production of commodities by means of commodities (1960).

Piero Sraffa was born in Turin on 5 August 1898. His father, Angelo Sraffa (1865–1937), was a well-known professor of commercial law and subsequently (from 1917 to 1926) Dean of the Bocconi University in Milan. Following his father as he moved from one university seat to another, the young Sraffa studied in Parma, Milan and Turin.