John Maynard Keynes: Foreword to General Theory
Antiwar Propaganda: By Way of Explanation Dept.
Following introductory remarks by James J. Martin herewith are reproduced both the English translation and the original German version of John Maynard Keynes foreword to the 1936 German edition of his seminal opus, General Theory. This material comes from JJM's collection of essays, titled, Revisionist Viewpoints: Essays in a Dissident Historical Tradition published by Ralph Myles Publishers.
J.M. Keyne's Famous Foreword to the 1936 German Edition of the General Theory
by James J. Martin
Historians write about economics with a fearful and trembling hand, but economists brashly and cheerfully tackle historical enterprises as if they enjoyed some special commissioned prerogative. What follows this brief introductory material is not an expository essay but a document for all to examine, economists, historians, and the general reader alike. It may be of some embarrassment to both Keynesian and anti-Keynesian partisans, to both those who have never known of this subject and those who have known of it but who have been inhibited by psychic pressures, ranging all the way from an exaggerated sense of delicacy to intellectual cowardice, from ever saying anything about it.
One can read whole reams of economic literature written by both fervent followers of John Maynard Keynes and his attackers as well and never know that there was a German language edition of his profoundly influential General Theory late in 1936, for which Keynes wrote a special foreword addressed solely to German readers. By that time the National Socialist regime of Adolf Hitler was four months short of four years in power in Germany. Even the perfumed and sanctified Life of John Maynard Keynes by R.H. Harrod, a book going on to almost 700 pages, never even faintly alludes to the fact that Keynes had a German publisher, nor that the General Theory appeared in Hitler Germany a few months after it was published by Macmillan in England in 1936. (Keynes's foreword to the English edition was dated December 13, 1935.) Perhaps it would have thrown readers offstride for Harrod to discuss such a matter since his book was published in the heat of the immediate post-World War Two years, appearing in 1951. But incongruous and ill-fitting matters such as this are almost always left out of romantic and poetic essays passing as biography. Two prestigious English economic periodicals, the Economic Journal and The Economist,, with meticulous coverage of European and world economic affairs, failed to make any reference to a German edition when they reviewed Keynes's tour de force, nor did subsequent issues in the immediately following years, as far as I have been able to determine. In recent years only Henry Hazlitt has called attention to this important matter.
Some economic scribblers hostile to Keynes want too much to attack him personally as if he created the modern state, but appear to be most hesitant about challenging the state themselves. Keynes did not create the modern state. He found it the way it is, and, obviously, from the context of his German foreword, prepared a scheme or system to work within its confines; the greater and more total the state employment of his General Theory, the better. The core of Keynes is found in two consecutive sentences in the German foreword: "The theory of aggregate production, which is the point of the following book, nevertheless can be much easier adapted to the conditions of a totalitarian state than the theory of production and distribution of a given production put forth under conditions of free competition and a large degree of laissez-faire. This is one of the reasons that justifies the fact that I call my theory a general theory."
We are deep in an age of scriptural exegetics devoted to Keynes and a plethora of what-Keynes-really-meant glosses akin to the tidal wave of similar print which deluged us on Marx in the 1930's. But it ought to be interesting to see what kind of sinuous evasion must be employed to discount the very clear testament involved in this declaration by the Master. The main purpose for this publication is to make it available to students of all persuasions and to general readers who might have an interest in original documentation, for a change. The original German text is included to aid those who wish to make a careful examination of their own.
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