Solow's Harrod: Transforming macroeconomic dynamics into a model of long-run growth
Modern growth theory derives mostly from Solow's “A Contribution to the Theory of Economic Growth” (1956). Solow's own interpretation locates its origins in his view that Harrod's growth model implied a tendency toward progressive collapse of the economy. He formulates his view in terms of Harrod's invoking a fixed-coefficients production function. We challenge Solow's reading of Harrod's “Essay in Dynamic Theory,” arguing that Harrod's object in providing a “dynamic” theory had little to do with the problem of long-run growth as Solow understood it, but instead addressed medium-run fluctuations, the “inherent instability” of economies. Solow's interpretation of Harrod was grounded in a particular culture of understanding embedded in the practice of formal modelling that emerged in economics in the post-Second World War period. Solow's interpretation, which ultimately dominated the profession's view of Harrod, is a case study in the difficulties in communicating across distinct interpretive communities and of the potential for losing content and insights in the process. Harrod's objects – particularly, of trying to account for a tendency of the economy toward chronic recessions – were lost to the mainstream literature.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: July 3, 2016