Keynes's politics
in Keynes and Marx
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Keynes was intensely political. He was an activist, a populariser of economic ideas, an influential Treasury official and seldom for long out of touch with the British prime minister of the day. Economics was never a neutral scientific endeavour, and it makes sense to understand his economics in the light of his political views. Keynes wants to develop a more realistic theory, but even his most abstract work is oriented to providing a better guide to policy. Keynes wrote in the ‘advice to princes’ tradition, offering a better guide for rulers of the existing system. As usual with Keynes, there are ambiguities and his political stance is contested, but it is argued that although Keynes says some different things, he fairly consistently occupies a space bounded on the one hand by a conservatism drawn particularly from Edmund Burke and on the other by British liberalism. The first two sections of the chapter discuss these two influences. The third section discusses alternative claims that Keynes was a socialist, arguing that while there were radical aspects to his thought, Keynes is better understood as a pro-capitalist not a socialist thinker. As the fourth and final section continues, Keynes brings in the state, but in a quite consistently liberal way in that he still conceives the requisite level of state intervention as being minimal, albeit while raising the perceived necessary minimum. A specifically British, but also more broadly a national rather than international or global, orientation also informs and limits Keynes’s political economy.


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