Athanasios Asimakopulos

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Athanasios (Tom) Asimakopulos (1930-1990) was the "William Dow Professor of Political Economy" in the Department of Economics, McGill University (Montreal) and became an important American Post Keynesian [1] economist. His monograph, Keynes's General Theory and Accumulation [2] , reviews important areas of Keynes's General Theory [3] and the theories of accumulation of two of his most distinguished followers, Roy Harrod [4] and Joan Robinson [5] . This book makes Keynes's writing on his General Theory accessible to any student by presenting this theory in a careful, consistent manner that is faithful to the original.


Athanasios (Tom) Asimakopulos was born in Montreal in 1930. He was educated at McGill University earning a B.A. in 1951 and an M.A. in 1953. On September 1953 Tom went to Cambridge; his research topic was a three-commodity, three-country study in international trade theory entitled Productivity Changes, the Trade Balance and the Terms of Trade[6] . With his classmate Keith Frearson [7], the australian economist, Tom went to Joan Robinson's [8] lectures on what would become The Accumulation of Capital [9] - Robinson's magnum opus, which sought to extend Keynes's theory to account for long-run issues of growth and capital accumulation. Initially Tom was irritated by Robinson's criticisms of the orthodox theories of value and distribution and neoclassical methodology on which he had been brought up. Tom also went regularly to research students's seminars run by Piero Sraffa and Robin Marris as wheel as to Nicky Kaldor's. Athanasios (Tom) Asimakopulos was a Lecturer in Economics and Political Science from 1956 to 1957 at McGill. From 1957 to 1959 he worked as an Assistant Professor at the Royal Military College. In 1959 he returned to McGill and became an assistant professor, working close to J.C. Weldon. Promoted to the position of associate professor in 1963, he became a full professor in 1966. In 1988 he was appointed "William Dow Professor of Political Economy" on Weldon's vacancy. He served as Chairman of the Department of Economics from 1974 to 1978. Teaching was his top priority; Tom loved teaching the microeconomics course to the Honours Students at McGill. Even though he had an assistant, Tom made sure that, from time to time, he gave tutorials himself, on which he would emphasize, ad nauseam the importance of the assumptions of the analysis and its implications on the results of the theoretical model studied.. He wrote extensively on the work of such economic theorists as J.M. Keynes, Joan Robinson [8], and Michal Kalecki [10] . He was active in many professional associations and organizations. He held numerous fellowships and was a Visiting Professor and a Fellow at universities in the United States, England and Australia. From 1976 to 1990 he was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Athanasios Asimakopulos died in 1990.

Contributions to Economic Theory

Asimakopulos was a Post Keynesian [11] "Kaleckian" scholar, who elaborated upon Michal Kalecki [10] theories [12]. Tom wrote mainly around and on Keynesian themes and on growth, distribution and technical progress (this last often with Weldon). Over time Kaleckian's contributions came to be a major influence and interest; Tom came back to Kalecki influenced by Joan Robinson. Kalecki [13] stresses on determinants of income distribution, determinants of economic activity, determinants of profits, long-run growth, prospects of economy, or impact of imperfect competition on growth of income has been an important inspiration to many economists we call Post Keynesians [14]. An advantage of theories that originate from Kalecki is that they are closer to what can be called "normal" theories. Kalecki's papers are acceptably formalized [15] not extensively open to various interpretations as the Keynes' General theory of Employment, Interest and Money (Keynes (1936)).

When Post Keynesians [14] treat production side of the economy in their models, they usually inhabit their models with firms, which operate within neither perfectly competitive environment, nor within perfect monopoly setting. Post Keynesian [14] firms usually set their prices as mark-ups above their prime costs. Profits of those firms usually, along with "animal spirits and expectations", have pronounced impact on investment decisions and therefore determine profits in the future. This double-sided relationship between profits and investment is clearly in spirit of Asimakopulos (1971) [16] The most succinct definition of post-Keynesian economics comes from Joan Robinson:

To me, the expression post-Keynesian has a definite meaning; it applies to an economic theory or method of analysis which takes account of the difference between the future and the past. (emphasis in the original).(1978; CEP, vol. V, 1979b, 210)2:


The principal concern of Post Keynesians is to have a more complex and realistic aggregate supply and demand framework that includes mark-up pricing, the trend to monopoly, the workings of endogenous money and credit, circular and cumulative causation, and a pragmatic guide to policy. The workings of uncertainty lead to an unstable capitalistic system that requires the making of agreements and accords to promote stability. At the global level, it requires a fairer distribution of power such that the onus is on nations with trade surpluses to adjust their policies. More than anything, Post Keynesians eschew the quantity theory of money, since money and credit are seen to affect output and employment in both the short and long term. Indeed, like the institutionalists and Marxists, they see the capitalist economy as a monetary system of production, where money and creative financing are essential aspects of its functioning. [17] Maynard Keynes, Richard Kahn, Richard Goodwin, Nicholas Kaldor, Luigi Pasinetti, Joan Robinson and Piero Sraffa all started initially within the mainstream Economics of their time. They all moved well and truly outside it, attempting to create either a revolutionary alternative or to rehabilitate the classical–Marxian tradition, in most cases in the light of the Keynesian revolution. The one exception is Michal Kalecki, whose personal history and independent mind combined to place him virtually always outside the mainstream. Athanasios (Tom) Asimakopulos however viewed himself as a mainstream economist. He even declined an invitation to be included in the first edition of Philip Arestis and Malcolm Sawyer's admirable A Biographical Dictionary of Dissenting Economists [18] (1992), because he regarded his views and contributions as belonging fully within the tradition of economics proper, not in a dissenting stream (he was included in the second edition). [19]

For more information, see: Keynesians.

Asimakopulos critique of Keyne's Marginal Efficiency of Investment (MEI)

In his General Theory [3], John Maynard Keynes (1936: Ch.11) proposed an investment function of the sort < I = I0 + I(r) > where the relationship between investment and interest rate was of a rather naive form. Firms were presumed to "rank" various investment projects depending on their "internal rate of return" (or "marginal efficiency of investment") and thereafter, faced with a given rate of interest, chose those projects whose internal rate of return exceeded the rate of interest. With an infinite number of projects available, this amounted to arguing that firms would invest until their marginal efficiency of investment was equal to the rate of interest, i.e. < MEI = r >.

Asimakopulos (1971, 1991), Piero Garegnani (1978) and several Post Keynesians offered a troublesome critique to Keyne's original formulation. Asimakopulos et al. [20] questioned the very possibility of a downward-sloping Marginal Efficiency of Investment (MEI) function in the presence of unemployment. In particular, we can note that Keynes's multiplier story implies that if investment is undertaken then, by the multiplier, aggregate demand and output rises. But if the marginal efficiency of investment function is dependent on expected future returns, then should not the increased income and thus aggregate demand from the multiplier imply higher future returns? If so, then the MEI function ought to shift outwards to the right. This, in turn, implies that investment ought to increase - which leads to another increase in aggregate demand and thus the MEI curve shifts out again, raising investment, etc.

As a result, it is easy to conceive that, in situations of unemployment where the multiplier works its magic, investment is actually indeterminate - or rather, an ever-shifting MEI curve could imply that all investment projects will be eventually undertaken and not merely those that are profitable at the given rate of interest since the profitability of projects is itself a function of aggregate demand and thus endogenous to the problem.

Quotes on Asimakopulos

Tom Asimakopulos was a great Kaleckian scholar. His knowledge of the nuances and innuendos of Kalecki's approach to macroeconomics had no equal. Paul Davidson, Journal of Economic Issues.
This book (Keynes's General Theory and Accumulation) is the legacy of a dedicated and tough-minded scholar who did his heroes the compliment of taking their work seriously, rather than just praising it. Robert W. Dimand, History of Political Economy.

Major works published

Major works by Athanasios Asimakopulos (partial list):

  • Determination of Investment in Keynes's Model, The, 1971, Canadian JE
  • Finance, Saving and Investment, 1986, JPKE
  • Introduction to Economic Theory: Microeconomics, An, Oxford University Press, 1978. ISBN 0195402812
  • Investment, Employment, and Income Distribution (Aspects of Political Economy). Westview Pr (Short Disc), 1988. ISBN 0813307899
  • Kalecki and Keynes on Finance, Investment and Saving, 1983, Cambridge JE
  • Kaleckian Theory of Income Distribution, A, 1975, Canadian JE
  • Keynes's Theory of Effective Demand Revisited, 1982, Australian EP
  • Robinsonian Growth Model in One-Sector Notation, A, 1969, Australian EP
  • Signification theorique de la Theorie generale de Keynes, La, 1987, in Boismenu and Dostaler, La Theorie generale et le keynesianisme
  • Synoptic View of Some Simple Models of Growth, A, with J.C. Weldon, 1965, Canadian JE and PS

See also


  • ASIMAKOPULOS, Athanasios. Joan Robinson and economic theory. Banca Nazionale Del Lavoro Quarterly, v.151, p. 381-409, December 1984.
  • ASIMAKOPULOS, Athanasios. Introduction: Kalecki, Keynes and Joan Robinson. In ASIMAKOPULOS Investment, employment and income distribution. Aspects of Political Economy series. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press; Cambridge: Polity Press in association with Blackwell, 1988, p.1-22
  • ASIMAKOPULOS, Athanasios. Joan Robinson and economic theory. In. Investment, employment and income distribution. Aspects of Political Economy series. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press; Cambridge: Polity Press in association with Blackwell, 1988, p.186-215
  • ASIMAKOPULOS, Athanasios. Kalecki and Joan Robinson: An 'Outsider's Influence'. Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, v.11, p.261-78, Winter 1988-89.
  • ASIMAKOPULOS, Athanasios. Harrod and Robinson on the equilibrium rate of growth. Banca Nazionale del Lavoro Quarterly Review, n.170, p.345-58, September 1989.
  • ASIMAKOPULOS, Athanasios: Kalecki and Robinson. In: SEBASTIANI, Mario (ed.) Kalecki's relevance today. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989, p.10-24.
  • ASIMAKOPULOS, Athanasios. Joan Robinson and the Americans. Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, v. 13, n.1, p.111-24, Autumn 1990.
  • KALECKI, Michal. Collected Works of Michal Kalecki Vol. I : Capitalism: Business Cycles and Full Employment. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198286678
  • KALECKI, Michal. Collected Works of Michal Kalecki Vol. III: Socialism, - Functioning and Long-Run Planning. Edited by Jerzy Osiatynski. Oxford at the Clarendon Press. Oxford, 1992
  • KALECKI, Michal. Collected Works of Michal Kalecki Vol. V : Developing Economies. Editor: Osiatynski, Jerzy. Translator: Kisiel, Chester A. Oxford at the Clarendon Press. Oxford, 1993. ISBN 0198286678
  • KALECKI, Michal. Collected Works of Michal Kalecki Volume VI. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198286686
  • KALECKI, Michal. Collected Works of Michal Kalecki. Volume VII: Studies in Applied Economics, 1940-1967; Miscellanea. Oxford at the Clarendon Press. Oxford, 1997. ISBN: 0198289898
  • KALECKI, Michal. Theory of Economic Dynamics: An Essay on Cyclical and Long-Run Changes in Capitalist Economy. New York, NY: Augustus M. Kelley, Publishers, 1969.
  • KALECKI, Michal. The Last Phase in the Transformation of Capitalism. New York. 1972. Introduction by George R. Feiwel. Reprint. ISBN: 0853452113
  • KALECKI, Michal. Studies in the theory of business cycles, 1933-1939 . Translated by Ada Kalecka. Oxford: Basil Blackwell/ Warszawa: Polish Scientific Publishers, 1966. First Edition in English (1st Polish ed., 1962).
  • KALECKI, Michal, Zofia DOBRSKA, Ignacy SACHS & Jerzy TEPICHT. Essays on Planning and Economic Development. Center of Research on Underdeveloped Economies Research Papers. Vol.1; Warsaw 1963.
  • KALECKI, Michal. Selected Essays on the Dynmaics of the Capitalist Economy 1933-1970. Cambridge University Press, 1971.
  • KALECKI, Michal. Introduction to the Theory of Growth in a Socialist Economy. Blackwell Publishers; 1970. ISBN 0631123105.
  • KALECKI, Michal. Essays in the Theory of Economic Fluctuations. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, Inc., 1939. ISBN 0415313724
  • KALECKI, Michal. Selected Essays on the Economic Growth of the Socialist and the Mixed Economy'. Cambridge: University Press, 1972. ISBN 0521084474
  • KALECKI, Michal. Essays on Developing Economics. Humanities/Harvester Press, Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey/Hassocks, Sussex, 1979. ISBN 085527134
  • ROWLEY, J. C. R. Athanasios Asimakopulos, 1930-1990, Canadian Journal of Economics, Vol. 24 (1991), 234-5.
  • ROWLEY, J. C. R. Athanasios Asimakopulos, 1930-1990, Proceedings of the Royal Society of Canada, Vol. 4 (1994), 7-10.


  1. American Post-Keynesians
  2. ASIMAKOPULOS, Athanasios. Keynes's General Theory and Accumulation (Modern Cambridge Economics Series) (Print on Demand). Cambridge University Press, 2004. ISBN 0521368154
  3. 3.0 3.1 KEYNES, John Maynard. General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, The. London: Macmillan Press; New York: St. Martin's Press; 1936
  4. Sir Roy F. Harrod, 1900-1978
  5. Joan Violet Robinson, 1903-1983
  6. ASIMAKOPULOS, A. A Note on Productivity Changes and the Terms of Trade. Oxford Economic Papers, New Series, Vol. 9, No. 2 (Jun., 1957), pp. 225-233
  7. HARTCOURT, G. C. Keith Frearson On Roy Harrod, As Told To Geoff Harcourt
  8. 8.0 8.1 Joan Violet Robinson, 1903-1983
  9. ROBINSON, Joan.The Accumulation of Capital. London: Macmillan Company, 1965. First published 1956.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Michal Kalecki, 1899-1970
  11. ZÁPAL, Jan. Post Keynesian Tax Incidence Theory.Charles University Prague, Faculty of Social Sciences Institute of Economic Studies.
  12. LAVOIE, Marc. The Kaleckian model of growth and distribution and its neo-Ricardian and neo-Marxian critiques(1993) Cambridge Journal of Economics Volume 19, Number 6, Pp. 789-81
  13. NUTI, D. M. Michal Kalecki - excerpts from a paper entitled Michal Kalecki's Contributions to the Theory and Practice of Socialist Planning. Monthly Review, Oct, 1987.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 The American Post Keynesians
  15. LAVOIE. Marc. Traverse, Hysteresis, and Normal Rates of Capacity Utilization in Kaleckian Models of Growth and Distribution (1996), Review of Radical Political Economics, Vol. 28, No. 4, 113-147
  16. ASIMAKOPULOS, Athanasios. The Determination of Investment in Keynes's Model, Canadian JE, 1971, vol. 4, issue 3, pages 382-88.
  17. O'HARA, Phillip Anthony. The Revival of Political Economy and its Main Protagonists: 1960s to the Present. History of Economics Review pp. 140-151
  18. ARESTIS, Philip and SAWYER, Malcolm. A Biographical Dictionary of Dissenting Economists. Edward Elgar Publishing, 2000 pag. 7-11 First published 1992 ISBN 1858985609
  19. HARCOURT, G. C. The Structure of Post-Keynesian Economics: The Core Contributions of the Pioneers. Jesus College, Cambridge Adobe eBook Reader (ISBN: 9780511247613 ISBN: 0511247613
  20. J. M. Keynes's Internal Rate of Return, at HET website