Theories of Inflation - A Series of Three Articles

Theories of Inflation - A Series of Three Articles
Nitzan, Jonathan. (1990). Discussion Papers. Department of Economics. McGill University. (Article - Working Paper; English).

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PDF (1. Macroeconomic Perspectives on Inflation and Unemployment)

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PDF (2. Price Behaviour and Business Behaviour)

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PDF (3. Inflation and Market Structure)

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Abstract or Brief Description

1. Macroeconomic Perspectives on Inflation and Unemployment (46 pages)

The present paper is the first in a series of three essays in which we examine the macroeconomic and structural approaches to inflation. In this paper we explore some of the key contributions to the macroeconomic literature which appeared since the late 1950s. Much of this literature evolved in a dual love hate relationship with the Phillips Curve. Scholars who endorsed the Phillips Curve on the basis of historical evidence were surprised when it started to crumble as soon as they assimilated it into their macroeconomic models. The gradual emergence of stagflation and the progressive breakdown of the Phillips Curve presented mainstream macroeconomics with the most serious challenge since the Second World War. Macroeconomists attacked the Phillips Curve but their criticisms sought to modify, not nullify. The idea that inflation and unemployment were inversely related was apparently too significant to discard so the notional relationship was simply ‘augmented’ by auxiliary factors. The cost of saving the Phillips Curve was substantial. To explain stagflation, macroeconomists resorted to 'disequilibria,' ‘rigidities’ and ‘exogenous shocks’ and they abandoned, at least temporarily, the ideal formulation of the neoclassical synthesis.

2. Price Behaviour and Business Behaviour (33 pages)

The present essay is the second in a series of three papers which examine alternative approaches to inflation. Here we identify some of the principal criticisms expressed against neoclassical views on price behaviour and business behaviour. These challenges grew from the early discovery of ‘administered prices’ by Means and the subsequent findings by Hall and Hitch regarding ‘full cost’ pricing. The notions that industrial prices were relatively inflexible and that businessmen set those prices by imprecise rules of thumb stood in sharp contrast to the pristine simplicity of neoclassical models. Yet these attempts for greater realism seemed to undermine the prospects of constructing a coherent theory for prices.

3. Inflation and Market Structure (59 pages)

This is the third in a series of three essays which explore modern theories for inflation. Here we examine theories that reject the universal validity of perfect competition and link inflation with alternative, more realistic structures and institutions. In contrast to macroeconomic theories which emphasize ‘excess demand’ and growth inflation, structural theories relate primarily to stagflation. While most macroeconomists share a common belief in the ideal type of ‘profit maximization,’ structural theorists differ widely in their views on what motivates economic actors. The multiplicity of motivational assumptions lead different theorists toward distinct explanations for inflation. With their greater sensitivity toward real institutions, these theories offers important insights into the process of modern inflation. The structural literature, is, nevertheless limited by some of its methodological foundations.



Publication Type

Article - Working Paper


administered prices business objectives business structure capital competition corporate concentration corporation demand disequilibrium distortions equilibrium full cost growth imperfections inflation labour macroeconomics marginalism market prices markup microeconomics monopoly neoclassical normal price oligopoly perfect competition Philips Curve price smoothing price theory profit pull-push spirals rational expectations stagflation stagnation supply shocks target rate of return unemployment


BN Law
BN Cooperation & Collective Action
BN Industrial Organization
BN Institutions
BN Macro
BN Conflict & Violence
BN Methodology
BN Agency
BN Capital & Accumulation
BN Labour
BN Growth
BN Power
BN International & Global
BN Business Enterprise
BN Value & Price
BN Crisis
BN Production
BN Money & Finance
BN Distribution
BN Micro
BN Policy

Depositing User

Jonathan Nitzan

Date Deposited

20 Nov 2005

Last Modified

29 Mar 2016 19:59


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